Many saw Warner Bros defection to the Blu-ray camp
in the high-def media format wars – upon which much hangs for the Xbox 360 and PS3 - as a near-finishing blow. Retailers, however, aren't so sure.
Steve Eastman, the vice president of consumer electronics at Target Corp, one of America's largest retailers, said in an interview, "I don't think we're in a position to go out and declare a winner".
These comments were echoed by Gary Severson, senior vice president in charge of electronics for giant, mega-uber retailer, Wal-Mart Stores, who said, "It would be our hope that by this Christmas there would be a clearer choice for the customer, instead of battling back and forth... I don't know if that's going to happen or not."
Eastman and Severson do seem clear on one thing, however. Having two formats duking it out is hurting them. Target sells only Blu-ray players in store, although HD-DVD players are offered on its website. Is that because Blu-ray is superior? Nope. "We felt, initially because of the confusion, we had to pick one", said Eastman.
"If we were able to have one united message and say: 'Here's high definition TV, here's a high definition DVD, here's the medium to play on it', it's a much cleaner story to customers that the industry can push, that every retailer can push and the customer goes, 'OK I get it'", said Severson. "Right now they're basically being taught to wait and see what happens."
Circuit City's Chief Executive Officer, Phil Schoonover, was a little more optimistic, saying of the Warner Brothers' transition, "We are very excited to see progress of any type, and we see this as significant progress".
Progress, but not a deciding factor.
Paul Ryder, VP of the electronics store for online retailer Amazon.com, didn't seem too concerned, however. "We don't have to choose", he said (you can almost hear
a smug grin). "I don't have to say I don't have enough room on my shelf."
Of course, that is a hugely important point - and one that differentiates the current conflict from the last 'Great Battle of the Consumer Media' - when Sony and Betamax took on the world (well, JVC) and VHS in the mid-1970s. Back then, consumers were largely lead to the least expensive (lower quality) format by what was made available to them. (Sure, the argument about the Porn industry killing Betamax by opting for the more cost-effective VHS stands up to some scrutiny, but it does not tell the entire story). Today, as Ryder points out, online retail could arm the consumer with greater power.
There's life in this war yet...
So, what does this all mean for gaming? Don't trade in your 360 HD-DVD peripheral in the hope that Microsoft will release a Blu-ray equivalent
just yet...Source: Reuters