|Well, it's time for the truth to come out - the format war, by all major sales figures from all reliable points, is pretty well over. Sales figures over the holidays of 2007 showed Blu-ray outstripped HD-DVD sales by a whopping two to one, meaning two thirds of all HD products sold were BR.
The HD-DVD press conference here at CES was cancelled, and the Blu-ray conference on Monday evening had one solid message: "We won."
As mentioned, the raw sales figures worldwide showed BR discs selling double. More importantly, this wasn't a spike - the entire thirteen week quarter showed these figures to be fairly consistent. In fact, they're continually growing.
To add insult to injury , a last minute addition to the BR Disc Association panel was none other than Ron Sanders, President of Warner Brothers Home Video. For those who missed the news, Warner Brothers announced that it was breaking rank and defecting from HD-DVD to produce Blu-ray only, despite the large possibility of a lawsuit for breach of contract by the HD-DVD group and the format's main hardware producer, Toshiba.
The press conference itself focused mostly on how the format was made successful - illustrations of consumer education, content variety and advertising campaigns broke up the individual speeches. Very little of the conference focused on the future of the medium, but the question and answer sessions shed some light on it.
A couple of the questions skirted around the DRM discussion - Blu-ray Plus content protection was more of a squid in the corner that nobody wanted to ask outright. However, news wasn't really all that bleak about it - Bob Chapek, President of Walt Disney Home Entertainment, mentioned that DRM would be the decision of the individual studios, and mentioned that many studios (including Disney) are realising that a hard-disc copy or transcoding to a portable version (the PS3 to PSP was used as an example) can and even should be considered as part of a consumer's right.
When it came to discussion about region encoding, however, the entire panel was unable to answer. The question was almost embarrassing, being as it was asked last year and met the same response. A follower of the format asked about why the region encoding, which is not published and is actually quite odd, is not considered a monopolistic action - the consortium has very few studios who do not do simultaneous worldwide release, and so it can be reasoned that there's very little purpose to it but "to restrict free trade between world citizens."
Andy Parsons, Senior VP of Pioneer Electronics (and the leader of the Blu-ray Disc Association, chuckled and looked mildly put off by the question. As he looked to the rest of the panel for assistance, he was met with none other than blank stares.
"We may have to just wait and see how things develop regarding that over the coming year," he responded.
"Oh? You told me the same thing last year. Shall we table the discussion another time and pick it up next year," the reporter asked.
Nervous laughter from the audience and a couple members of the panel could be heard for a good ten seconds before Parsons responded - "Yes, well then, next year. Now, onto other things, the next question will be the last for the night..."
In this reporter's humble opinion, the format war may indeed be over now that only two studios (Universal and Paramount) even support HD-DVD in any form. However, we may have a little while to go before we should welcome our new benefactors with open arms...