Ah, the format wars took another turn towards a clear victor this week. Not that anyone is buying either, but at least one retail channel is now sorted. America's largest video rental outlet, Blockbuster Video, has opted to rent Blu-ray only
in its latest high-def expansion.
Though this may not sound fantastically important, it is actually a huge victory for Blu-ray backers like Sony. The majority of retail channels have the luxury of riding both horses to see which one wins - there is nothing preventing a retailer like Target from carrying both HD-DVD and Blu-ray. And until a clear winner comes through, it actually is in their best interests.
So if you can't beat 'em in the sales department, what's the other way most of the world gets its movies? No, not The Pirate Bay...
Video rentals account for a large chunk of home movie viewing - enough so that the choice of a movie rental monolith like Blockbuster could easily influence consumer buying patterns. The company's choice to support Blu-ray for the consumer base at large will carry a lot of weight. After all, if you want to go pick up a movie on your way home, your player will need to read it.
The new Blu-ray titles will be rolled out to 1450 new stores, bringing the total hi-def stores up to 1700. HD-DVD titles will continue to be carried in the 250 stores that they were announced in, as well as Blockbuster's online rental service. However, the company has not specified that it will expand its HD-DVD rental collection to include future new releases, either.
"Obviously, when customers are ready we can expand the Blu-ray offering into more stores and add HD-DVD to more locations if that's what customers tell us they want. We'll continue to work with the movie studios to ensure we have the right assortment of products,"
the company stated in its press release. By the sound of it, the company will adapt to where the market goes in the future - which means the market must be very Blu-ray slanted if the rollout was this one-sided.
This step is probably the first actual weight applied toward one format or another since the format wars began, at least that consumers will feel. More titles have been available on Blu-ray since the start of the year, but neither format has actually "taken off" as the replacement to the DVD. However, Blockbuster's move is going to put one front and center in the consumer eyes of America.
It's too early to crown a king, but could the switch be enough to at least close the coffin on HD-DVD, even if not nail it shut? Tell us your thoughts in our forums
This article has been edited to reflect Blockbuster's continued commitment to carrying HD-DVD at locations where currently available.