The end of the format war

January 6th, 2008 — Wordman

Another hideously stupid format war that did absolutely nothing to help consumers is over: Blu-ray wins. Oh, it will be a while before HD-DVD figures this out, but it’s done. You’ll find a number of people saying this lately, largely because of the recent defection of Warner Brothers to the Blu-ray format. This, and things like Apple most likely including Blu-ray drives in the next generation of its machines, are important of course, but I’m calling the war for Blu-ray for a different reason: porn.

Early on, I guessed that HD-DVD would win the format war for the same reason that VHS beat the superior Betamax: it better met the needs of porn producers (cheaper to make, longer running lengths, etc.). And, indeed, HD-DVD appears to dominate pornography in the United States. After some exaustive research (link not work safe) on my part, I can confirm that finding porn titles in HD-DVD is much easier than finding them in Blu-ray. For some time, Sony was actively preventing porn from being available on Blu-ray, but not any more, starting with Debbie Does Dallas Again. So, it appears that porn is at least producing in both formats at the moment, even though HD-DVD is still (by far) more common in porn.

This, however, does not matter. Whatever role porn did or didn’t play in the VHS vs. Betamax war, it will turn out not to have much impact on the HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray war, which is the main reason I think this war is now over. There are two things that are different this time around that make this so.

First, porn now has many more outlets than it did in the VHS days. Back then, if you wanted porn, your only choices were theaters or videotape. These days, with rule 34 in full effect on the internet, porn is now almost impossible to avoid. Those looking for high-definition porn are much more likely to find it in some downloadable format than either of the DVD formats.

This pales next to the other reason, though. After even more painstaking research, I have now realized the truth: high resolution porn breaks the illusion. The quality is too good, turning porn into a festival of pimples, surgical scars and razor burn. Some companies are adapting to this, but these are likely to be companies that actually care about production quality, which most porn makers do not.

Taking porn out of the equation knocks a big…leg out from under HD-DVD. While it will still take far to long for HD-DVD to die, it’s now safe stick a fork in it for your purchasing choices.

Update: The death spiral is happening faster than I thought it would. Glad to see that companies that care about this war seem to think it is as stupid and useless as I do.