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Blu-ray DVD drive annoys some PlayStation 3 buyers

Blu-ray is adding $150 to $200 to the cost of the product

By Sue Zeidler
December 8, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Gamers love Sony Corp.'s new PlayStation 3 for its graphic capabilities and firepower, but the advanced Blu-ray DVD drive is annoying some by raising the cost, slowing production and forcing them to buy into a format they've not yet aligned with.

Sony's move to put a Blu-ray drive into the PS3 video game console is part of the Japanese giant's plan in a high-stakes next-generation DVD format war that recalls the fierce Betamax-VHS battle, which Sony's Betamax lost.

This time, Sony's Blu-ray is competing against a rival Toshiba Corp.-backed format known as HD-DVD.

Sony said Blu-ray is part of its long-term plan to position its machine as a home entertainment hub, but some experts say the strategy may be backfiring.

Yankee Research Group Inc. analyst Michael Goodman said that while die-hard gamers will buy the PS3 at any cost early on, buyers who come to the product later will be more price-sensitive.

"Blu-ray is adding $150 to $200 to the product. They've created something that is not for today's market. It's not a market driver; it's only driving the price higher," he said.

Watertown, Mass.-based Cymfony Inc., which culls trends from posts on Internet sites, reported that positive discussions about HD-DVD were 46% higher than Blu-ray in a survey of almost 18,000 posts on blogs, discussion boards and consumer review sites from Oct. 1 to Nov. 30.

"Negative Blu-ray conversation indicated a lack of consumer trust in Sony, as well as gamer displeasure with selling Blu-ray in association with PlayStation 3," said Jim Nail, a spokesman for Cymfony, which culls trends from posts on social media sites

Hollywood and electronics makers are hoping high-definition DVDs, with better picture quality and interactive features, will reignite the slowing market for DVD sales. But the format war, technical issues and the advent of digital video-on-demand services are creating hurdles for the new DVDs and players.

Andy Parsons, a spokesman for the Blu-ray Disc Association, called the launch of the PS3 a "turning point" for the format.

"Blu-ray's here to stay. The likelihood of people using PS3s as DVD players is significant, particularly when you're talking about millions of consoles Sony expects to sell," he said.

There is a good precedent for Blu-ray: Sony's PlayStation 2, currently the dominant game console with more than 106 million sold, helped push the standard DVD format. The PS2 came to market in 2000, about three years after the DVD was first launched.

"We think the same will happen with the PS3 and Blu-ray," Parsons said.

In the gaming console war this holiday season, Sony's PS3, priced at around $600, faces two main competitors in Microsoft Corp's Xbox 360, priced around $400, and Nintendo Co.'s Wii, priced at about $250.



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