Rumors float around the Internet questioning when Microsoft will ship a Blu-ray enabled Xbox 360 or add-on device like they did with the, now failed, HD-DVD. At CES 09 Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices division, says this request is “way down the list.”
Mr. Bach had some great selling points as to why a Blu-ray player has little value in the world of Xbox 360. The primary reason, of course, being the Xbox 360 developers cannot take advantage of Blu-ray as a development platform for games. This was the price Sony, or the consumer, paid to own a PlayStation 3 since all games are printed on the media and are, in effect, Blu-ray “capable.”
We say capable because not all (any?) PlayStation 3 games currently make full use of the Blu-ray media. Many games will reprint the game on the media for optimization purposes, fill the game with international voice overs for all countries or, otherwise, stuff the media with something that will serve a useful purpose. Sony has near-future-proofed their device by giving game developers years of growth in terms of utilizing the Blu-ray capacity.
Microsoft chose to take the smaller old-style DVD format for games and media. Adding the HD-DVD didn’t add a large deal of risk because, as we saw, they can discontinue the model and not change their core gaming demographic. We still laughed a bit at them, but that was where it ended. Bach also said that it’s not really a great economic time to push a new 360 SKU on potential customers with additional cost just for Blu-ray movies playback.
They could add Blu-ray game development support as well but that would just alienate the “28 million Xboxes” they have already shipped.
“OK, let me get this straight: I’m going to add something to the product that’s going to raise the cost, which means the price goes up, consumers aren’t asking for it, and by the way, my game developers can’t use it.” (gamespot)
Of course, the first thing that came to our mind was “well, you did it for HD-DVD, how is Blu-ray different?” The key areas we can think of really come down to Blu-ray is a Sony technology and they are a direct competitor and, to top it off, HD-DVD allowed them to fight against the PS3 at the media level of the industry. They minimized the risk by making the product a secondary add-on device and, if HD-DVD had won, they’d have the winning format already under production (still not for games).
It seems Microsoft has changed their battle plans a little. They started out talking up the media aspects of the 360, using Media Center, renting movies and TV shows and had the HD-DVD as a subproduct. Today, they’re investing in Netflix for media and everything else favors the games.
Which is fine, we like games.