Bang, You’re Dead

I'm so coldWell, that was quick.

I’d been planning to do one of those “gathering storm” lists to indicate that this whole format-war thing was finally ending — mathematically proving that, like poor Mike Huckabee, there’s simply no chance for HD DVD to win the day.

(Come to think of it, that comparison is terribly unfair; HD DVD is actually a perfectly viable product outside its own sphere of influence.)

So imagine my surprise when I boot up my computer this morning … and find Reuters reporting Toshiba has already thrown in the towel. According to an NHK story, Toshiba has decided to end development of the HD DVD format; the company will continue to market and support its existing products, but it’s basically a matter of shuttering the division and clearing out the old stock.

That this news comes less than 24 hours after Wal-Mart’s decision to stop carrying the format — which immediately followed the announcement that Best Buy would be recommending Blu-ray over HD DVD as a matter of corporate policy — is not entirely shocking. Toshiba’s just doing what it can to save face now; at this point; it probably seems like a good idea to admit defeat and stop bleeding money rather than soldier on in the face of near-universal derision.

For my own part, I’m sorry to see HD DVD go. It was a decent little format, really; it never had the studio backing to win the format war, but the studios that did support it produced some fine titles — many of which can now be found at incredible blowout prices. (The players are going for a song, too.)

Admittedly, it’s only a matter of time before those titles start to appear as Blu-ray editions, and sooner rather than later. Universal and Paramount have reportedly been preparing to go format-neutral for a few weeks now; Toshiba’s capitulation is bound to knock those plans into high gear.

The one downside here is that the end of HD DVD means that there’s no longer a reason for anyone to perfect the hybrid player, meaning that those of us who’ve amassed a considerable dual-format library are stuck with two players until all the red titles reappear in blue versions. (Even then, the HD DVD versions of titles like Warner’s “300” will still have specific features that aren’t available on the BD editions.)

Still, I don’t really have a problem keeping the A30 around. It’s a good player; no, it can’t hold a candle to my PS3 in terms of booting up and playing a disc, but once it gets started it works just fine.

And as long as my beloved “Shaun of the Dead” is an HD DVD exclusive, that machine ain’t going anywhere.

3 thoughts on “Bang, You’re Dead”

  1. Hey Norm,

    Ever since the impending demise of HD-DVD I’ve been waiting for a fire sale on HD-DVD movies. The links you mention are for American based on-line retailers. The Canadian big box companies haven’t budged yet it seems.

    Have you seen any Canadian based ones yet with sales? Of have you dealt with the US based sites and just paid the roughly 10% duty upon receipt (which would still be a deal though not as sweet).

    I would love to hear your thoughts on this.


  2. Hi, Richard,

    First, I’ll confess my dirty little secret — Kate’s been going back and forth to New York so often for her work that I just have Amazon ship stuff to her there, and she mules it back for me. It’s usually just a couple of discs here and there; never enough to exceed her legal exemption.

    The other dirty little secret, regarding Amazon, is that I do it for the free shipping, rather than to avoid duties; every time I’ve directed stuff to be shipped to a Canadian address from, the package comes via a depot in Windsor, Ontario, thus avoiding any border issues and duties. (They also tend to arrive a lot faster than the stated due dates on the site.)

    I haven’t seen a single Canadian sale for either HD or BD discs, beyond the ongoing HMV 2-for-$50 sale at which I snort derisively; as long as there are BOGOs at Amazon, there’s simply no reason to bother. (That said, I did pick up the HD DVD discs of “Batman Begins” and “GoodFellas” on Boxing Day for $15.99 each, which counts as a deal, if only barely.)

    So, yeah, I’d keep an eye on Amazon for bigger and better selloffs; the Deep Discount sale linked above is also one I’d recommend, since they don’t charge for shipping; if one was to buy each title separately, the shipments would be priced well below the Customs threshold.

    Also, though this borders on the predatory, you should start haunting used DVD stores, because some people will be dumping their entire HD DVD collections as soon as they hear the news, and I’d wager the bulk of those discs will have been played once or twice, if at all.

  3. Meh.

    Like Criterion, I’m still waiting out the format battle.

    I was kind of rooting for HD because the alternative was…well…Sony.

    A company that, as a whole, has demonstrated behaviour that is at best dim-witted (developing and then neutering the Minidisc format) and at worst criminal (the compact disc-like music platform DRM root-kit disgrace).


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