Format War Non-News: Walmart's $300 Yellow HD DVD Peril, and Why None of This Matters Yet

So you've heard the rumor about Walmart getting a wave of cheap Chinese HD DVD players? Here's an article by Digital Trends riding the 1000-Digg wave declaring the format war is done. Finshed. Decided. All by the giant retailer's might, HD DVD will win. It makes some sense, and gives some insight to how the retailer decides what to stock.

One thing the article ignores: Current facts.

Right now, Walmart carries not only an HD DVD player for a marginally more expensive $349, by Toshiba, but a $900 dollar Blu-ray player, too. So the $300 dollar rumored price of the Chinese players are a factor, but not more than it already has been with Walmart's existing stock. So there's no reason to write this article now. Unless you factor in the quantity of the rumored players: 2 million. That's more than the combined title sales of both Blu-ray and HD DVD together, which says more about the pathetic states of both parties. (Anyone know DVD's adoption rates by year one offhand?) But I'm not sure these will be a factor — limited supply has never been the issue. It's been limited demand. See for yourself — Walmart's $349 player is going on clearance right now. You want a price point to crow about? I think it's $199. (That's the psychological barrier marketers say husbands have to ask their wives for permission to cross.) Imagine those 2 million players get here, are left unwanted on shelves, and get marked down to $175. Now you're talking about some leverage in the fight. Oh what's that? Hmm, you're already close to this pricing with this dealzmodo of 5 free HD DVD discs with the purchase of a $300 HD DVD player.

How about the fact that Blu-ray sales were great this quarter. I personally believe it has to do with people buying movies they actually want to watch. And five of the six major studios do Blu or Both (Only Universal does strictly HD DVD). Geeks, don't forget, content is king. Will the studios bow to Walmart? Maybe. They've done it before, in Walmart's groundbreaking but shitty video service that is the first and only to have all 6 studios on board. But that hasn't done very well either, has it? I thought retail might could do anything, but apparently, Walmart's customers are not leading edge adopters? I wonder how that affects their power in this cutting edge war?

Of course, this is a lot of talk based on rumors. Neither Walmart or HD DVD groups have made a statement yet. The format war is not decided, and I seriously doubt Walmart is going to do the deciding without the say of both the studios and your wallets. So, steady as she goes.

Back to those Q1 numbers. On to a better article, which John Falcone of CNet sent me: Eric at Ars, kings of reason and analysis on the net, remind us that In

When we discuss HD DVD and Blu-ray at this point in time, we're talking about really small numbers. When sales are in the tens of thousands and not the millions, the market is especially susceptible to changes.

Yes. Like when a few hundred HD DVD fanboys spiked the Amazon sales numbers with a synchronized April 15th buy . (Again, Amazon is a much better metric for leading edge buyers than Walmart.)

With volumes like what we're seeing now, however, it's like trying to call an election with less than 2 percent of the precincts reporting.

Ultimately, until gals like this one can name a format by heart, its not over.

And this is why, even if it's fun to talk about, we call it non-news.