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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Battle of the DVDs

    Battle of the DVDs

    Nothing lasts forever these days, especially when it comes to technology. You save up for months to get that new iPod and then three weeks later they release a newer, smaller model with more storage space and a brighter screen.

    Every once in a while, technology takes a leap that affects us beyond just the simple electronics we use on our way to class, and I’m not talking about some creepy new Japanese dancing robot.

    Over the past year, you’ve probably started to see the HD-DVD and Blu-Ray versions of your favorite movies on the shelf at places like Wal-Mart and Blockbuster. At first, these new versions appear to be part of the same cash-hording scheme we’ve all seen before: a movie gets released on DVD for $19, then a month later a “”Collector’s Edition”” comes out with all the cool special features you wanted in the first place – at an extra cost, of course.

    However, look a little closer and you’ll notice something different. Blu-Ray and HD-DVD are the two newest pieces of technology sent on down from the corporate mountain to us consumers. These new storage formats are set to go head-to-head with each other over the next few years, and although it’s not yet clear who’s going to come out on top, with standard HD-DVD players going for $500 and Blu-Ray for $1,000 at Best Buy, it’s a sure bet who’s going to lose: everyone else.


    For those of you who didn’t grow up in the ’80s, a quick history lesson. Once there was an alternative to those large, black tapes we call VHS. For a short time the home video market was flooded with Betamax tapes too. Smaller in size and with slightly better picture quality, these little guys were created by Sony and were responsible for the first home video recorders. The battle between the two formats didn’t last long, however.

    “”We had to deal with both formats for a while,”” said Gala Schwab, co-owner of Casa Video, which opened in 1983. “”Luckily, VHS won out early in the game.””

    Hopefully, history won’t repeat itself with the new DVD formats.

    Two different formats can’t be good for the rental industry, said Schwab about the new DVDs, both of which are in stock at Casa.

    Schwab said she is hoping for a consensus from the movie industry.

    It would be in everyone’s best interest if one format came out ahead of the rest, she said.

    “”It costs the video stores more money to stock two products. It’s not something we want.””

    One downside that movie lovers can almost certainly look forward to is the phasing out of the VHS.

    “”A lot of old movies that are on VHS aren’t on DVD,”” said Schwab. “”And with even more competition from the new DVDs, VHS is sure to go the way of the dinosaur.””


    So can we expect another format war like our parents had to deal with?

    “”When DVD technology first came out it really gave the rental industry a boost,”” said Schwab. Now it seems like more people are buying the high-definition equipment needed to get the best picture with the new DVDs, she said. The new DVDs can sometimes be seen playing inside Casa Video on the large monitors throughout the store.

    “”The picture is pretty darn good,”” she said.

    With more options than ever before, you’d think that DVD sales would be going through the roof. Not so, said Richard Eldert, a media product specialist at Best Buy.

    Referring to a customer who purchased a new format DVD earlier in the day, Eldert said, “”That’s probably the first sell I’ve had in a week.”” The onset of the new formats hasn’t really helped sales with the standard DVDs either. “”They go hand in hand,”” he said.

    Video games

    The next generation of video game consoles will be the cheapest way to draw in consumers to the new formats.

    Microsoft’s new Xbox 360 is expected to come out with an external HD-DVD drive within the next few months, and the new Sony Playstation 3 will be Blu-Ray capable right out of the box when it hits the shelves in November.

    With both companies expecting to have millions of units sold before the end of the year, you can expect these video game consoles to be the main source of income for HD-DVD and Blu-Ray movie distributors.

    And they aren’t cheap.

    Both consoles come in two versions, one souped-up version and one basic version, not unlike a DVD release with bonus features and one with just the movie. The Xbox 360 core system sells for $299, and the HD-DVD addition is expected to retail at $170. The PS3 low-end system is priced at a whopping $499. Both options are still cheaper than most stand-alone next-generation DVD players, whether it’s Blu-Ray or HD-DVD.

    Both consoles will take advantage of the greatly expanded storage capacity of the new discs, which, along with bigger production values, send the prices of video games soaring. Games priced at $60 to $70 are a common sight for the new consoles.

    “”Games are definitely more expensive,”” said David Wadsworth, a junior majoring in English and an avid gamer, as he took a break from the “”Dance Dance Revolution”” machine in Wilbur’s Underground at the Student Union Memorial Center.

    While some students lament the onset of new technology and its financial impact, others accept it as an inevitability.

    “”There has to be a next-generation format,”” said computer science junior Steven Elias. “”It might not be Blu-Ray or HD-DVD, but something will always replace old technology.””

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