Blow by blow, the fight between Blu-ray and HD DVD entered a new round this week. On Wednesday, Target announced it would soon start selling a Blu-ray player exclusively in its stores, a major blow to the HD DVD format.
But HD DVD landed a punch too, thanks to news from Microsoft that the HD DVD add-on to its Xbox 360 video game console would be reduced $20 and come bundled with five free movies.
Target Joins Blockbuster
Target said Wednesday that in October it will start selling the Sony BDP-S300 Blu-ray player, the first standalone next-gen player to be offered in its stores. It currently offers the Toshiba HD DVD player on its Web site, along with Sony's PlayStation 3, which has a built-in Blu-ray player. Target said it will continue to sell DVDs in both high-definition formats in the stores, but will not stock HD DVD standalone players.
Target also said that the players and Blu-ray DVDs from three studios will be displayed at the more-visible ends of aisles. For this "endcap" position, Sony is paying a placement fee. HD DVD players and discs have reportedly been shown in endcap positions at Circuit City and Best Buy.
With Target's announcement yesterday, the second largest retailer in the U.S. joins Blockbuster in the Blu-ray camp. In June, the video chain announced that it will offer only the Blu-ray DVD format for rental in 1,700 of its stores. The HD DVD format is still being offered through the company's online channel, blockbuster.com, as well as through the 250 stores that currently carry both formats.
HD Less Expensive
Microsoft and other backers of the HD DVD format are trying to press their advantage in offering players that are less expensive than Blu-ray boxes. HD DVD players are now being sold for $299 at U.S. retailers such as Circuit City and Best Buy, while the competing Sony BDP-S300 Blu-ray players at Target will go for $499.
Microsoft's Xbox 360 is in second place among current-generation game consoles, and today's promotional announcement, made at the Comic-Con International 2007 conference in San Diego, leverages that position in trying to help HD DVD.
The price of the add-on will be lowered from $199 to $179 beginning August 1, and any purchases made before September 30 will include five free HD DVD movies. Microsoft corporate vice president Jeff Bell said that the price reduction means the Xbox 360 HD DVD player "continues to be the most affordable way to enjoy high definition."
The five free movies can be chosen from 15 titles, via a mail-in offer, which the Redmond, Washington-based company said represented a value of over $140. The offer was originally Toshiba's "Perfect Offer" and had been exclusive to Toshiba HD players.
Microsoft also announced that, to accompany the HD DVD launches of the movie 300 and of the first season of NBC's TV series Heroes, both titles will be available in high-definition on the Xbox Live network. An on-demand version of 300 will be available starting August 14, and the pilot episode of Heroes will be available as a free download to Xbox Live members.