Wal-Mart joins the digital movie download fray

Looks like all those rumors and conspiracy theories regarding a Wal-Mart download store actually counted for something this time around. Just in time for the holidays, Wal-Mart has announced its very own video download service, which will kick off in "beta" mode next week with an exclusive Superman Returns bundle. Buyers of the DVD will have an option to also obtain a portable, PC, or dual license for a movie download, priced at $1.97, $2.97, and $3.97 respectively. Users will be directed by a sticker on the DVD case to where they can enter a promo code and start the download -- which can be watched while the movie is downloading if they can't bring themselves to pop in the actual DVD. This is quite a different tact than other movie download services, such as iTunes, Amazon Unbox and Xbox Live, and it seems primarily designed to protect video sales cannibalization while leaving out much of the convenience of a traditional movie download service. Wal-Mart says it has more bundles planned for the beta launch, along with what is presumably a more traditional download service with more traditional pricing, though deets are slim at this point. What we do know is that the war for your holiday download dollar will be a bloody one this year.