It was only 3 years ago when we were all witnesses to the format war that was Toshiba’s HD DVD versus Sony’s Blu-Ray Disc. And as you enter any brick and mortar retailer these days, its quite easy to spot the outcome as Blu has taken over DVD sections across the country. Sony (and Toshiba) made us all believe that we should want to own physical media, and that Microsoft’s all-digital future was much further off than we all thought. This week Sony’s version of the Netflix streaming service is the best one yet, not just on consoles, but on any device that offers the service. With a stack of movies on Blu-Ray (250 or so) 8 times the size of my PS3 games collection, and tons of movies and shows popping up on either PSN or “Super”Netflix as I like to call it, why do I feel like it’s all been a waste?
I know some people reading this may take offense and defend the quality of Blu-Ray over streaming or downloadable content. And you know what, if it was 3 years ago I would be right there with you but the fact of the matter is that the latest forms of compression being used by Netflix (and even Sony with their own PSN stuff) looks so good that most (key word here) people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Unless you were sitting 4 feet from a 55 inch TV you wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference between 720 and 1080p let alone what’s a stream and whats running off of a Blu-Ray Disc.
The same can be said for audio comparisons. I am certain that any self proclaimed audio snob (like myself) will say “well with Blu-Ray I get DTS-MA or Dolby True HD, Netflix is only Dobly Digital 5.1” and they would be correct but you know what (and this is coming from someone who went out and put together a surround sound system just for the PS3 after it released) users like that don’t make up the majority of consumers. People will hear Dolby 5.1 and say, “perfect, that’s what I already own”.
With Netflix being a combination of both 1080p video as well as Dobly Digital 5.1 audio on the PS3 why would people even bother looking at the PSN video store at this point? I know I certainly won’t. Sure, you get much more recent stuff in the store but on the other hand I think most people these days have the “I’ll wait till it’s on Netflix” mentality rather than paying for individual rentals that may or may not be available in HD and are probably only available in stereo.
One thing that can’t be argued is the fact that yes, the Netflix currenlty library probably has more “shovelware” titles than the Wii and DS combined. More recently though, Netflix as well as Hulu (currently in Beta on the PS3) are valiantly fighting off cable companies that wish to monopolize video content, Comcast being the leader of the bunch. And with Hollywood leaning in the direction of streaming services and holding the fate of Cable TV in their hands, it won’t be much longer that those movies are no longer under Cable TV “exclusivity embargo” from Netflix and their “watch instantly” delivery platform.
While Microsoft did have an add-on for HD-DVD, they always referred to it as just that… an add-on. They always stressed the importance of being the content provider and offering the best experience and that experience would eventually be digital. Maybe that’s the reason why their version of Netflix never matched the quality that is now available on the PS3; by doing that they avoided taking away sales from their own instant-on 1080p, 5.1 Zune Marketplace.
So you see the writings on the wall and Sony has absolutely no problem with completely abandoning their original strategy of physical media. I’m not indicating that Blu-Ray is on its way out right no per se, but by having this “Super” Netflix they’re definitely shooting themselves in the foot as a company, not just as PlayStation. Netflix combined with Hulu on the PS3 spells disaster for both PSN and Blu-Ray Disc sales. I mean why buy movies or shows when you can stream them with quality that is comparable? Pretty soon I’ll have to figure out what the hell I’m going to do with all these movies in Blu cases… Ebay here I come.