Monday, February 25, 2008

Microsoft Kills HD-DVD for XBox 360

Little surprise here, given that the next-generation media war has already been declared over. But I caught this weekend post from the good folks at GameLife, one of the essential daily reads for videogame freaks. I'm really not interested in reprinting the day-to-days, but this does mark an interesting turn of events for the current console generation. Let's check the scorecards.

By any way you stretch it, Sony has had a terrible time with Playstation 3. They've struggled to a degree that they never have before, not unless you count the days of their ill-fated SNES CD drive. That damned box was just so outrageously expensive, the development costs were out of control, third-party studios were giving stronger consideration to XBox 360 as the platform of choice, and then out of the blue comes Nintendo with its Wii console, the Never-Ending Fad.

Then we count Sony's financial troubles, mostly dealing with the risks of betting so much on the Blu-Ray standard. Only a year ago, analysts were drawing the knives, waiting for the mighty tech company to get its comeuppance. I was pretty sure they were driving off a cliff.

Well, it's time for me to admit my mistakes. I was wrong. Sony's gamble is going to pay off handsomely. Heck, given the long-term prospects, Blu-Ray will become a feather in their cap. At least, until Microsoft can successfully push for digital downloads.

As for me, I'm firmly in the digital downloading camp. I think that's the future of the movies. It's the damn present. It's now. There's no real excuse for holding back, aside from the Hollywood studios. They are afraid, rightfully so, I might add, that what happened to the music industry is about to happen to them. Imagine a video iPod that can store 5,000 full-length feature movies. DVD-quality, too. It's inevitable.

Microsoft has made this their real battleground against Sony, and it's a more long-term war. Expect to see PS4 and XBox 720 before then.

For now, that means that Sony, once again, has a games console with a top-line DVD player dirt cheap. It's suddenly 2000 all over again. No wonder there are rumors of Dreamcast coming back. You jerks would probably snub the Greatest Games Console Ever yet again, just for kicks. Forget it. My heart can't take that kind of pain...I'm too old.

So where does that leave this console generation? The wild card, as always, is Nintendo. Most of the Wii games are hideous, low-grade schlock, yes, but the top 10% includes Super Mario Galaxy, Wii Sports, and Super Smash Brothers. Mario Kart and Animal Crossing are within, folks, at this rate, I don't think we'll ever see this baby sitting on store shelves. The senior citizens and soccer moms are grabbing right from the truck. The last time that happened, it was the 1984 Cabbage Patch Doll craze, and it turned into a bad Arnold Schwartzeneggar movie. Nintendo Wii ain't going anywhere.

The 360? The PS3? Far more parity down the road. Sony should catch up in due course. There's still enough brand-name loyalty, even though it's a pretty tasteless brand. What does 360 do in the next three years? That's a very good question. Microsoft pretty much controls its own destiny now.

So everybody wins. Except the gamers, of course, because they've got to pay for all this stuff. Better pray for some very forgiving girlfriends in the coming years.

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