by Anton Shilov
10/11/2008 | 05:34 PM
Microsoft Corp. this week denied yet another report (this time by X-bit labs) about plans to release an add-on Blu-ray disc (BD) drive for Xbox 360 video game console. It is logical for the software giant to deny any possible intentions to support Sony Corp.’s format right now, but the question arises: how Microsoft plans to distribute video games for its next-generation console in the coming years if not on BDs.
“We have no plans to integrate Blu-ray into the Xbox experience,” said Aaron Greenberg, group marketing manager for Xbox Live at Microsoft, in an interview with Microsoft’s official Major Nelson blog, reports VideoGaming247 web-site.
One of the major motives for Microsoft to be lukewarm about Blu-ray is obligatory support of BD-Java interactive technology and Sony’s reluctance to adopt rival tech called HDi that was developed by Microsoft. Another substantial reason for Microsoft not to reveal a Blu-ray optical drive for optical drive is $30 per drive royalty payment to Blu-ray disc association. The software giant does not admit those reasons publicly.
“We believe that we shouldn’t force people to pay for things they don’t want. We also believe that the future is digital, and that’s why we’ve invested in a massive library of entertainment content, that’s why we’re bringing things like Netflix to members in the U.S., that’s why we’re growing our library in Europe, that’s why we’re adding all type of entertainment experiences around the world,” Mr. Greenberg added.
Microsoft may downplay the importance of Blu-ray – which is completely correct, as it still has single-digit market share of the home entertainment media market – for now, but the technology is supported by major consumer electronics (CEs) companies. Given the fact that the Xbox 360 competes for becoming the center of home entertainment, it would be strange for Microsoft for not competing for high-quality video enthusiasts. The company already released HD DVD add-on for Xbox 360 and it has become one of the most successful devices for the console.
It should be kept in mind that Blu-ray technology does not mean only movies. Blu-ray disc is a storage technology that presently allows to record up to 50GB on a single disc. When Microsoft releases its next-generation video game console, in three to five years from now, it will have to distribute games for it somehow. By that time, 8.5GB dual-layer DVDs will become obsolete for video games and Microsoft will have to find ways to distribute titles that are going to be larger than 16GBs (based on claims by John Carmack, lead programmer at id Software, who said that two DL-DVDs would not be enough for the forthcoming Rage title).
Perhaps, Microsoft plans to distribute its games via the Internet, but that will hardly work in areas with slow Internet access and without proper payment systems (e.g., on developing markets), including such areas as China, India, Russia, Brazil and Eastern Europe. As a result, the company will either have to limit its customer base to well-developed markets with very high-speed Internet, or will have to use higher-capacity discs.
If Microsoft decides to use higher-capacity optical media, it may either adopt Blu-ray, or resurrect HD DVD with the help of Toshiba Corp. and DVD Forum. But Microsoft decided not to support Toshiba earlier this year after several negative announcements regarding drop of HD DVD support by Warner and major U.S. retailers, which eventually caused Toshiba to drop the HD DVD support too.
If Microsoft needs to eventually adopt Blu-ray format for its next-generation video-game system and enable playback of high-definition BD movies, why not do this with an add-on device as soon as possible just to appeal to high-quality video fans loyal to Microsoft?