Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment.
When Sony included a DVD drive on its PlayStation 2, it was clear which technology was helping sell which product. After just avoiding being a victim of a format war itself, DVD was on its way to enticing consumers with many of the same benefits that had turned the compact disc into a huge success -- high-fidelity, portability, durability and the end of rewinding. The PS2 may well have been a success without DVD, but DVD did not need the PS2.
For the PlayStation 3, the issue was a lot murkier. While US sales of standalone -- that is to say, excluding PS3 -- players for Blu-ray and HD DVD were almost dead even in 2007, Blu-ray titles consistently outsold HD DVD titles. Part of this may have been due to Toshiba's heavy bundling of titles with HD DVD players, but PlayStation 3 owners seem to have bought Blu-ray movies in droves. While Sony consistently promoted Blu-ray's game and movie capacity as a PS3 selling point, the PS3 -- specifically its owners' embrace of Blu-ray movies -- was the major consumer factor in swinging the fate of the high-definition video disc for Blu-ray.
Yet the fight was fought at least as much by corporations as by consumers. Out of the gate, Blu-ray had more studio support and a Murderers' Row of consumer electronics companies -- Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, Philips, LG, Sharp, and Pioneer -- backing the format. Not only did these companies account for the vast majority of DVD player sales in the US, they also accounted for most of the large-screen TVs, paving the way for bundles and other promotions that are sure to accelerate now that there is more security in buying Blu-ray.