According to a new industry research study, online opinion makers have already crowned HD DVD the winner over Blu-ray in the high-def format war -- and surprisingly, the PlayStation 3 may be more hindrance than help.
A report compiled by independent market analytics firm Cymfony scoured over 17,664 postings on various media sites, tech blogs and message forums over the past two months, and found that Blu-ray lagged far behind HD DVD in positive opinion. In fact, their numbers indicate that the buzz for HD DVD is 46 percent greater than that of Blu-ray, and that's among both high-def early adopters and the gaming community.
As the firm stresses in their report (which is available online via PDF) unlike most such industry studies, the research was not sponsored by any manufacturer or other organization affiliated with either HD DVD or Blu-ray technologies products.
Further scrutinizing a core sampling of 2,000 random posts, the report found more bad numbers for Blu-ray. Of this group, 23.4% viewed Blu-ray negatively, compared to 14.2% for HD DVD; 53.1% were neutral toward Blu-ray (52.8% for HD DVD) and 32.9% viewed HD DVD positively compared to 23.5% for Blu-ray.
But perhaps most surprisingly -- and most potentially damaging for the Blu-ray camp -- the report also suggests that core gamers are actually dissenting from the format because of Sony's inclusion of a Blu-ray drive in the PlayStation 3. That's in sharp contrast to almost all industry projections, as the PS3's next-gen playback capabilities have long been predicted to be Blu-ray's ace in the hole.
"Sony forces you to buy Blu-ray," read a post at forums.adventuregamers.com that was cited by Cymfony. "Microsoft doesn't force you to buy HD DVD. It's about giving the consumer options."
What do we make of all of this? Well, one study is only just that -- one study. And this one, based soley on online buzz before either format hits the mainstream, seems hardly scientific. But it does seem to accurately represent the fact that ever since the Blu-ray format launched this past summer to poor reviews for both the initial hardware and software, it has had a tough time recovering in the court of online opinion. Meanwhile, HD DVD continues to enjoy an upsurge in awareness and support few saw coming. Worse still, if the PlayStation 3's Blu-ray capabilities are seen not as a benefit but instead Sony as forcing a format down gamers' throats, well, all this bad buzz could turn Blu-ray into a giant blueberry of a bomb bigger than Violet Beauregarde in 'Willy Wonka.'
On the other side of the coin, Blu-ray continues to enjoy greater studio support, and -- like it or not -- greater penetration into consumer's homes via the PlayStation3.
We know one thing for sure. The Blu-ray camp still has some PR work to do: launching a new home video format is no different from any other new product -- perception can become reality. And if more reports like this continue to circulate, and the Blu-ray backlash doesn't let up, the format's backers may find it an increasingly uphill struggle to turn the tide. We here at High-Def Digest, meanwhile, remain format agnostic, and will continue to report and review on both formats. But unfortunately for Blu-ray (and Sony) the shadow of the failed Betamax continues to hover close by. Stay tuned...