Why Don't You Weigh In On The Video Format War?

Reader James writes:

I know that you guys have already covered the “format war” to some extent in the past. As I recall your site stated that the “format war” is indeed anti-consumer, which I agree with wholeheartedly. However, I do think that it would be incredibly helpful if you guys would revisit the story, and determine for yourselves which format is the most “consumer friendly.”

I realize that if you all were to essentially cast your vote then it would subject you to a lot of “hate” mail and such, but I believe that depending on how you present the information there will be no room for debate…


That wasn’t your entire email, and we apologize for not reprinting it in full, but we need to move on to the topic at hand. Why doesn’t Consumerist pick a format?

Let us be frank with you. One of the reasons we enjoy writing for this site is that does not require us to blow smoke up our reader’s asses. We think… We hope… they appreciate it, even though our advice isn’t always fun. We could tell you that XYZ new cool thing is inherently better, stronger, faster… but then we’d be Gizmodo. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.) Newer, better, cooler stuff will always be available. It’s our job to tell you how to avoid being a pawn in a stupid format war.

Sure, you may not like hearing that by choosing to enter into the market before a format is settled, you are taking a needless risk. You may not like hearing that early-adopters are not smart consumers. We’re sorry. You seem like a nice guy, and you are probably very smart. The truth is that it’s not always the “best” format that wins the war. We cannot in good conscience evaluate and choose a “consumer friendly” format in a war that could have easily been avoided, and that is bad for consumers.

To do so would be a disservice to our readers. Some of them, like you, are early-adopters. They bristle when we tell them to wait, but on some level they know they’re taking a risk. Many, like you, have done research and feel that they are making a wise choice. Some of them will be right. Some of them will be wrong.

Our advice is to wait. If you don’t want to wait, that’s your choice, your risk, your decision. Weighing in on BluRay vs. HD-DVD helps no one. Reminding consumers that it’s smarter to be patient helps us all… even if it makes us boring and uncool.



Edit Your Comment

  1. RAREBREED says:

    HD DVD!

  2. i still buy dvds, but for those insane-visual movies that i’d love to watch in hd, i buy on hd-dvd. not only because i bought the xbox360 hd-dvd drive, but because if i want to watch it at a friend’s house, i usually can. thankfully, many hd-dvds are double sided with one side being a regular dvd. kind of like forward compatibility.

    so for me, it’s not which one looks the tiniest amount better or which allows the companies to pack more onto a disc, it’s that i’m not gonna be effed in the b when my player breaks or the format i bought goes under. that’s, in my opinion, consumer friendly.

  3. B says:

    Personaly, I think the answer is None of the Above.
    For HD Movies, I’m waiting till I can download them directly to an HD television.

  4. vanilla-fro says:

    I’m waiting to see what porn starts using. hey it worked for VHS!

  5. KernelPanic says:

    Still Waiting….


  6. liquisoft says:

    I haven’t chosen a side because I don’t have an HDTV large enough to enjoy HD movies on. I don’t care who wins, frankly.

  7. WhatThe... says:

    The VHS vs Betamax format war took around 10 years to be settled completely. I’m going to wait 10 years to take advantage of my HD TV! We bought a PS3 so, we watch Blu-Ray. So far the only disks we own are the free ones from the Amazon promotion (8 free). And we rent them from Netflix when available. We don’t plan to buy more disks… if we buy we buy DVD.

  8. ptkdude says:

    I’m happy to weigh in on this topic: Standard-definition TV and current DVDs are fine for me. I don’t need to be able to count the zits on Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s face when watching the view, and I have no desire to see just how bad Donald Trumps hair really is.

  9. 4got10 says:

    Personally here is what I think will happen.

    1. Company X makes and affordable BR/HD-DVD combo player, consumer buys device.

    2. Consumer looks at the same movie available on BR and HD-DVD, looks at BR and it’s $35.00. Looks at HD-DVD and it’s $29.00

    3. Consumer buys $29.00 HD-DVD because it is virtually the same as the $36.00 version and they saved themselves $7.00

    Bottom line is once combo players become main stream the format war will be decided by the one that is the least expensive for consumers to purchase.

  10. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    Bottom line: I have better ways to spend my money.

  11. boandmichele says:

    ive said it before, the only media i need is a couple of 500 gig hard drives.

    physical media is going the way of other sony formats.

  12. Zaphâ„¢ says:

    I won my Blu-Ray through a promotional contest and enjoy it a lot. I hope that the format takes hold because whats better then saying I was an early adopter for free!

  13. milty45654 says:

    There is nothing wrong with regular DVDs and my regular TV. It looks fine. Why would anyone spend stupid amounts of money to see something just a tiny bit clearer? This shows how greedy the world is and how materialistic our society has advanced. Nothing is ever good enough. People are starving around the world and we need to decide how to spend our money..blue ray or HD DVD. The the guy who wrote the letter…donate all of your future spendings on DVDs to the poor…any choice you would make would be stupid at best.

  14. Jon Mason says:

    Want HD-DVD to win, but not willing to risk $200+disks on backing a potentially losing format. I have a 42″ HDTV and when you see shows like Lost in HD, they really do look beautiful, but then later I have a regular DVD on, it still looks pretty great and I don’t really miss the HD. So I am pretty happy with DVD, but will upgrade when it’s cheap enough to be an impulse-ish buy (say $100-$150)

  15. morganlh85 says:

    I’m a big fan of REGULAR EFFING DVDS. I don’t necessarily want the movies I watch to look realer than real life.

  16. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @vanilla-fro: My company is in “the Industry” and I can tell you that as far as Porn goes it’s already been decided. HD-DVD is the defacto format. We do regular and HD, Blu-ray dvds, HD is done by more than 80-1 over Blu-ray. The reason is very simple. Sony is blocking all authorized Blu-Ray makers from doing adult titles. The only people making adult Blu-ray are the small shops and the counterfiters. All the major adult labels are using HD. Which is why I have a HD :).

    Its kinda like Disney they won’t allow anyone who does work for Adult companies to work on thier products. Damned enforced morals are such a joke.

  17. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @milty45654: Even if we all gave our $ to poor countries it won’t help. Look at Ethiopia how much $ has been sent there and nothing has changed. Ethiopia used to export food to other countries till the Govt. was overthrown and the new leaders are corrupt.

    Between corrupt leaders and just outright stupidity most of the people starving are doing so needlessly. Pouring money on a situation is the real problem. If it isn’t planned out and handled correctly no amount of money will help.

  18. timmus says:

    I vote for DVD!

    I mean come on — what’s wrong with it? The discs are FINALLY dirt cheap, and I don’t need $2000 in additional equipment.

  19. Yourhero88 says:

    I’ll pay $200ish to watch Planet earth/blue planet in HD, since its just an add-on to my xbox. I say go with the format that has the movies that you want.

  20. d0x says:

    I went with HD-DVD, I got the Xbox 360 player cause it was only $170 but even a stand alone HD-DVD player is 1/4 the price of a Blu-Ray player.

    Aside from cost, HD-DVD has equal if not better picture quality, and the features build into the disks and player are more advanced and allow for movies to be more interactive.

    Sooner or later I will probably own both but only because after a couple price cuts I’ll be buying a PS3.

    Now that I’ve gone HD i cant go back. If i can ill always either buy/rent the HD-DVD or download the movie/show in HD from Xbox Live marketplace.

  21. bstewart23 says:

    The incremental improvement in resolution, quality and features for both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD is insufficient for me to buy into either. The next next-generation is where I’ll spend my money, since it’ll be the format that’ll bring me significant increases in my computer’s archival capabilities.

  22. Rusted says:

    Well, Betamax was the better system but VHS won. Some of us wound up with technological orphans and a rapidly obsolescing library.

    It’s better to wait for the dust to settle. Cheaper any rate.

  23. boandmichele says:

    what a ridiculous debate. cd’s or minidiscs? how about hard drive based mp3 players?

    its the same concept here, you are giving money to corporations who are fighting over greed, namely sony, and in less years than a few years they will be obsolete anyway

  24. spinachdip says:

    @vanilla-fro: High-def isn’t really the best idea for porn, considering that the performers, how shall we put this, don’t exactly lead the healthiest lifestyles.

    There was an NY Times article several months back about actors being resistant because the increased definition emphasized surgery scars and occupational wear and tear. If you look at how some mainstream stars look on high-def, it makes sense.

  25. pete says:

    You already can, it’s called Xbox Live Marketplace.
    Comes down in 720p which is pretty good, but HD-DVD and Blu-Ray are 1080p.

  26. ViperBorg says:

    HD-DVD. I wouldn’t touch Blu-Ray if my life depended on it.
    Anyway, when was the last time anyone’s heard of a BetaMax? It’s not like Sony’s preparatory standards stick anyway. You’d think they would have learned.

  27. warf0x0r says:

    While it is more expensive Blu Ray is technologically superior to HD DVD.

    -End of Line

  28. Mr. Gunn says:

    No brainer, considering Sony’s recent history. Anything but Sony.

    If they don’t get it together soon, they’ll both be obsoleted by downloads.

  29. d0x says:

    I saw 2 misconceptions while i quickly scanned the comments.

    First off the leap in quality between DVD and HD is not small, there is a huge difference in not only how sharp the picture is but how much detail you can see and the colors are 100x better. You miss alot of the little things when you watch standard def tv, switching to HD brings alot more detail.

    If you arent seeing the difference you either have a terrible TV, have it setup wrong or you are blind.

    Next up Blu-Ray is not superior to HD-DVD when it comes to watching HD movies. Yes Blu-Ray can hold more data per disk but thats only good for…say storage of files, or games.

    When it comes to HD Video 30 gigs is about 10 gigs more then you will ever need and since HD-DVD holds 30 gigs you will have no issue.

    Your average HD-DVD or Blu-Ray disk is about 12-15 gigs for a 2 hour movie. LOTR Extended edition which took up 2 normal DVD’s would fit just fine in HD on a HD-DVD. For movie viewing HD-DVD is superior, it uses more advanced codes on all movies not just some like Blu-Ray. It also has the ability to do more with the content which means new ideas for special features.

  30. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I think we can discuss the HD war when..

    .. At least 70% of the consumers have HDTV sets in their homes

    .. HD content is readily available. Other than a few over-the-air HD channels, there’s not much out there. Cable and satellite providers offer only a handful of true HD channels, for an extra fee of course.

    .. The price of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players drops to the sub $150 range.

    .. The price of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD movies drops to the sub $20 range.

    .. When HD content providers quit treating consumers like thieves by adding 100 levels of broken DRM.

    Until then, I think I’ll stick with my ancient SDTV and DVD player.

  31. Techguy1138 says:

    As bad as the format war is I’d still recommend a physical disk over a digital download.

    I can take my bluray,true for hd-dvd also, disks to any player while digital downloads will only work on your Apple device or your xbox360.

    It’s not cheap but if you want HD content I’d recommend getting both players or a combo player. The movies cost the same for either format with bluray being slight cheaper.

    Neither format is more consumer friendly. They both use drm and do not implement managed copy.

    Drm stands for digital rights management. It limits your ability to copy your disk for a back up, or make copies to put on your ipod or other device.

    Managed copy is a solution to the very consumer unfriendly implementation of DRM. It is supposed to allow you to make a small number of copies for your personal devices, such as iPods or PC’s. This hasn’t been implemented yet by either side.

    Right now both sides HD-DVD and bluray have about 1/2 of all the movie studios and each has a fair number of movies exclusive to either format.

    The HD-dvd players are significantly cheaper right now and the bluray disks are slightly cheaper.

    Neither is very good for consumers but both are better than non-pirated downloaded HD content.

    Being a pirate will get you the best quality digital downloads that can be made to play on any device. Of course you can wind up in jail for it. So the cost can be quite high.

  32. Exek says:

    HD DVD!!! “D0X” pretty much summed it up.

  33. supra606 says:

    I can’t even begin to add up the money I’ve saved by NOT being an early adaptor. I get things a few months or even a year later and save over 50% in most cases. As far as this poll goes, I also vote “none of the above.” DVDs are plenty clear enough for me.

  34. Padriac says:

    1) The two formats are essentially identical. BD holds more but it doesn’t matter. HD DVD does internet features right now while BD won’t until the end of the year, and in either case it doesn’t really matter. The discs cost the same (although HD DVD actually costs more on average due to the “combo disc” fiasco). Player prices are the only real distinction with an advantage to HD DVD, but in exchange you sacrifice choice: buy Toshiba or nothing (or a combo player).

    2) The internet has made porn a non-issue for this format war. Porn will mean nothing this round.

    3) Both formats will likely die if they can’t entrench themselves quickly enough to avoid the impending explosion of all digital HD distribution.

    Consumerist has got it right: if you care, go to town but know you’re very likely to get screwed at least in some small way, if not big time. If you don’t care all that much don’t even bother with these formats: more hassle than it’s worth.

  35. mrsultana can't get a password to work says:

    Wait, isn’t competition supposed to be GOOD for the consumer?
    The prices are coming down a bunch and both formats are giving away free movies to customers. The longer the format war, the cheaper things will get.
    Someone above mentioned that VHS vs Betamax took 10 years. I just got my first DVD player 8 years ago! I’m fine with it lasting that long. It spurs technological innovation (=cheaper parts) and lower margins (=cheaper discs).
    I have both a PS3 and a 360 HD Drive. I love them both. I don’t think it is the Betamax people that are worried, it is the Laserdisc folk. They got REALLY screwed.

  36. spinachdip says:

    By the way, I have these Criterion Collection laserdiscs just collecting dust in my basement. Let me tell you, you haven’t seen Yojimbo until you’ve seen it on a shiny, $50, 12-inch disc!

  37. dandd says:

    Couldn’t the same be said about eyeglasses? If you buy glasses because you want to see clearer, are you being greedy?

    I don’t hold a lot of hope for either format. Who really wants to spend $30 on movies?? Video On Demand really seems to be the future.

  38. Sian says:

    I really don’t care which format wins, though I’d certainly like to see Sony eat another Betamax fiasco, they seem to be ahead in the race this time.

    I’m simply not going to buy a High def player until this issue is settled. Until then, my laptop can output some truly gorgeous 1080P direct to the tv for free.

  39. NickRB says:

    Blu Ray of course. It’s definitely the superior format and has the legs to go the distance with potential storage space of up to 250GB!!!

  40. Trai_Dep says:

    I like how nicely written the article was, especially when dealing with something so meta as, “that’s not why we’re here”. It was very thoughtful, kind and a good reminder of what Consumerist is about. Well done!

  41. spinachdip says:

    @NickRB: You might have missed the point here, maybe a bit.

  42. krakbuste says:

    I see many have commented about how they will wait for a sub- $200 HD/Blu Player. Well, the store that the Consumerist loves to hate (and I imagine some readers do to)will have a sub 200 (<—important price point) for Christmas this year. oh and it will be HD-DVD….sorry blu-ray-philes…another winning fiscal year for blockbuster!!

    read it for yourselves:

  43. weigh in?

    CIVIL WAR repeat…

    discounteggroll out

  44. AmericaTheBrave says:

    I’m not jumping into the next format for several years, as far as I’m concerned.

    There are several reasons:

    One- A current DVD looks fantastic on an HDTV. I do not feel a pressing need to upgrade based on the picture. I’m sure BluRay and HD DVD look great, but not several hundred dollars or more great.

    Two – after having a Media Center PC, and Comcast On Demand, I don’t really feel the need to have movies in a physical format anymore anyway. In the not too far away future, physical DVD’s will become a rare event. We could have widespread use of movies over the internet now if the movie studio’s would jump in and other internet compression formats would become more widespread.

    To invest hundreds of dollars (or thousands when you figure the cost of the movies) into another format that will become obsolete within the next 5 years makes absolutely no sense.

  45. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Blu-Ray is the best! No, wait, I meant HD-DVD!!
    Who are we talking about again?
    I agree with another site, George Lucas should pick one format to release the original “Star Wars” movies on and end the ‘format war.’
    Note I said the original movies, not the poorly thought out piece-of-shit episodes dumb, blew, and fwee!
    “I was watching this movie I had waited years and years to see, and then Liam Neeson grabbed Jar Jar Binks’ toungue and I realised I was watching a cartoon!


    I’ve been listening to the back and forth between the HDDVD and Blu-Ray camps since the whole fight started and I STILL haven’t learned the one thing I want to know.

    Are either of the player formats backwards compatible, meaning if I buy an HDDVD/Blu-Ray machine will I be able to play my regular old DVDs on them?
    Will I have to keep my current DVD player hooked up or get a combo player?

  47. vanilla-fro says:

    @spinachdip: If I wanted them to look perfect, it would all be in my mind. Sometimes you need them to look filthy. Plus I think they will figure out a way to mask the more obvious imperfections.
    I think I’ll wait to see who wins before I buy anything. Hell I still have some VHS movies sitting around just because they still work and I don’t feel like spending the money to replace them with DVD. that and none of them are classics that I watch every weekend or anything.

  48. Anonymous says:

    I disagree that the format war is bad for the consumer. I consider the format war very good for consumers. I grant the point that it is inconvenient for consumers to have movies split between two formats. But, when HDDVD and Blu-Ray players launched they were $1000 each. Due to competition HDDVD player and Blu-Ray player prices have been cut significantly. I currently have both formats and each one has their positives and negatives. HDDVD players have more uniform specifications and standards for video. Blu-Ray discs have more space allowing for uncompressed audio. I have purchased both players for under $700 total. I bought both on sale. If there was no competition would Sony reduce the price of Blu-Ray players or Toshiba for HDDVD players? The format was has dropped the prices of players so that consumers can purchase both formats for less than it would take to purchase one if there was no competition.

  49. swalve says:

    @4got10: Bingo. There won’t be a war because the form factor is the same. The problem with VHS/Beta was that a combo unit was impossible.

    @HYDRAULICMONSTER: Because the form factor is the same, it will be easy for manufacturers to build a laser into the player to play any format. The nice thing about HDDVD is that the media is backward compatible. You can throw an HDDVD into any old DVD player and it will play the movie in SD. The idea being that you can begin buying and using your movies now before you buy an HDDVD player.

  50. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @swalve: You can throw many HD-DVDs into a DVD player and they will play, not all of them.
    And Vanilla-Fro brings up a good point…there are still movies I can think of that you can even get on DVD yet, but can get on VHS (mostly on eBay or Amazon Marketplace)…why are they not on DVD?

  51. adultbluray says:

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    That means about 1 titel per week


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