HD DVD vs Blu-ray: the enthusiasts’ divide

The battle between HD DVD and Blu-ray isn't just confusing consumers: it's turning enthusiasts against each other.

Disc battles: a curse of the modern age

For many years, The Digital Bits has proven itself to be one of the most reliable, up-to-date and interesting places for fans of DVD to go and get their fix. Reviews are well written, the news is informed, and there’s good, argued opinion on there too. It’s a site we’re big fans of, and that’s it kept going to such a high standard for so long is a credit to all involved.

Yet it’s a continuing sign of how ridiculously involved people are getting in a format war when a site that has so well served its readers over the years ends up bearing the brunt of enthusiasts’ anger. The cause of the ire? That The Digital Bits editor, Bill Hunt, posted an opinion on his site, citing his belief that Blu-ray would beat HD DVD. He did the same thing back when DVD was battling the original iteration of Divx. In that case, he posted reasoned arguments, on what is his own site, for why he believed DVD would win. And he was proved right.

And now you have to feel sorry for the guy. His post, which went up several months ago, was a reasoned argument in a battle where flame wars and forum trolling on both sides are in the ascendancy. And reading his words since, you get the impression that Bill Hunt is tired of cleaning out the vitriolic e-mails from his in-box, simply for stating his view on a site he provides to people for no charge. It’s staggering, really. And I say that as someone who doesn’t agree with everything he says, as someone who hates the regional coding that Blu-ray is imposing on too many of us international customers, and who has a slight preference for HD DVD.

The whole format war now, beyond causing mass consumer confusion and hurting take up of either format, is now having a knock-on effect online. It’s turning enthusiasts and fans against each other, and that’s the most ridiculous thing about the corporate willy-waving that the HD DVD vs Blu-ray argument has descended into. Take a quality debate site such as The DVD Forums. It has now had to set up a separate debate area called ‘The HD DVD and Blu-ray WAR! Forum’, simply because even the posting of a bargain deal on a disc would threaten a descent into format war anarchy.

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I’ve written myself of the ongoing issues with the format war elsewhere, where I’ve expressed my own dissatisfaction with the fact that we’ve got to this position in the first place. But what I’m finding really quite depressing now is that a group of enthusiasts, who should be united in their celebrating, ranting and debates over disc content, are fighting technical battles all-but-imposed on them by big corporations’ choices. It’s as if the films themselves are secondary, relegated to points on either format’s scoreboard.

Personally, I think Bill deserves praise simply for having the balls to stick his head above the parapet and putting a reasoned argument out there in the midst of all the FUD. And I also wish greedy people could knock their heads together and sort the whole thing out, leaving the rest of us to enjoy our high definition discs, without having to defend every buying decision online.