Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Great Blu-ray Rip-off!


I spoiled myself this Christmas, and bought myself a new PS3 Slim. With a 250GB HD and 1080p output it seemed like the best choice (over the Xbox and Wii). However, it was the Blu-ray player that sealed the deal for me. I recently upgraded my TV to a Full HD LCD, and wanted something that would let me appreciate the HD technology.
This blog is not meant to be a review of the PS3 (there are lots of those around), but I must say I'm very happy with my choice. The console exudes quality, the games are a huge step up from the PS2, and the media capabilities are a great bonus.

Blu-ray is a fantastic technology. Even normal DVDs look great thanks to the upscaling built into the PS3, but true 1080p output is simply stunning, and has to be witnessed to be fully appreciated!

However, I have to ask myself why, every time there is a new format introduced, the studios feel the need to up the price so radically. Locally, Kalahari.net has the District 9 DVD listed at R145.30 and the Blu-ray at R270.70, an 86% increase. The studios will ague that they have included a whole lot of additional material on the Blu-ray, but honestly, who wants this extra material. I almost never even look at the additional material on DVDs; I don't see that changing with Blu-ray. And is that additional material really worth the 86% on-cost?
To my mind, the cost of a movie, regardless of format, can be broken down into the royalty, the physical media, the manufacturing, and the marketing and distribution. The only differences between DVD and Blu-ray are therefore the physical media, the manufacturing and the additional material. Personally, I put zero value on the additional material, and, with volume, the media and manufacturing cost difference is negligible. So why the huge on-cost?
Well, we are being charged more for the 'perceived' value of high definition. The same thing happened when CDs replaced vinyl, and again when DVDs replaced VHS. And this is a huge rip-off, and a huge mistake!
Do you remember how people started building CD and DVD collections to replace their LPs and VHS tapes? That isn't happening now with Blu-ray, because the price is just too high. Instead, the format is battling to get a real foothold in the market, despite there already being a huge number of Blu-ray capable machines out there.
Sure, in the US especially, 'video on demand' services like Hulu offer an alternative to physical media, and these services have put a dent into both DVD and Blu-ray sales, but the fact remains that Blu-ray has not been the phenomenon it deserves to be.
So why should the studios do anything differently? Well, the security features built into Blu-ray make the discs much harder to copy. Almost anyone with a PC can copy a DVD; not so easy with Blu-ray. So, as a deterrent against piracy, the studios should be encouraging people to switch to Blu-ray, and they could do this by offering a 'movie only' version on Blu-ray, at a price point even lower than the DVD. People would flock to the new format, I guarantee!
That's what I would do.

Thanks for reading.