Update 2.19.2008: It's over! HD DVD is dead. After years in the market place, we can all finally move on with things.
HD DVD fans, we hate to do this to you, but it's time we called it. HD DVD is now officially on Engadget deathwatch. We haven't put anything important on deathwatch since TiVo in 2005 (which, as you may recall, still stands); but just as then, we have to step back from our personal preferences and investments in media and gear, ignore the rumors and hearsay, and take a close look at where things stand. We don't need Michael Bay to tell us the writing's on the wall.
So far this battle's been decided primarily by two factors: studio support and ubiquity of content. It's clear Sony's camp couldn't even come close to trumping Toshiba in hardware price war that's ensued over the past couple of years. But as it turns out, consumers that just spent thousands on a new HDTV weren't too concerned with a couple hundred dollars between players, and despite whatever users price won HD DVD, the PS3 Blu-ray trojan kept the competition at bay. Meanwhile, most consumers were too smart and too cautious to buy early in a format war. Most have simply waited this thing out, and while Warner's announcement to go exclusively Blu was obviously huge, it was only indicative of a trend -- it didn't set it.
If you look at the timeline, even before Warner announced its intentions to go Blu-ray exclusive HD DVD's studio base was already shrunken from its heyday, leaving it with fewer titles both in number and sales. Warner was just another push in the direction things were already headed -- the numbers already consistently showed Blu was ahead in media and install base, which has only become far more exaggerated in the last couple of months now that Blu amassed some 70% of studio-released titles.
But if you ask us, it's the ubiquity of content that sealed the deal. It wasn't until Blockbuster and later Netflix -- two of the three most widely used disc rental businesses in the US -- went Blu-ray exclusively that we knew HD DVD wasn't long for this world.
So here's the deal, Toshiba. As much as we hate putting any worthy technology on deathwatch, for the sake of the greater good we hope you guys just roll over and cut your losses so we can all move on. But if you really want off this deathwatch, you're not only going to have to retain Paramount (which owns Dreamworks) and Universal, you also need to win at least a few back from Blu (Warner and Disney would be a great start), and get hardware in consumers' hands, even if it means practically giving it away. It's not going to be easy -- hell, we think it's actually pretty hopeless -- but hey, that's why you're on deathwatch, innit?
P.S. -Special for this occasion, we've also brought our Blu-ray vs HD DVD: State of the Division charts up to date and added a few new tables.