At first, the analysts blamed the format war. Consumers didn’t want to pick a side in the battle between Blu-ray and HD-DVD, they said, until the movie industry could decide on a single successor to the DVD.
Well, after a year and a half of slugging it out, Blu-ray emerged victorious – but the hi-def movie discs have yet to win over many households.
The NPD Group reported some very gloomy sales figures last week: In the US, Blu-ray retail sales sank 40 percent from January to February – the month that Toshiba, backer of HD-DVD, said it would abandon its format. Sales then rose the next month, but only by 2 percent, according to NPD.
These numbers exclude computers with Blu-ray drives (of which there are very few) and sales of PlayStation 3 (which is finally gaining some momentum).
So why are Blu-ray sales still floundering? NPD suspects that most people are content with good ol’ DVDs. Why bother upgrading if the difference isn’t that noticeable?
More important, the next-gen players are expensive. Budget DVD players can cost less than $50, but Blu-ray drives hover around $400. The price will probably stay lofty for a while. Sony, obviously one of the biggest names in Blu-ray, told Gizmodo that a $200 drive is still at least a year away.
Another factor could be the new crop of “up-converting” DVD players, which play normal DVDs but scale the picture in a way that looks better on HDTVs. “Sales of significantly less expensive upconverting DVD players have actually increased 5 percent over the first quarter of 2008, compared with the same quarter a year ago,” reports CNET. “Standard DVD players sales dropped 39 percent over the same period.”