HD-DVD Combo Discs: Whose Bright Idea?

On Tuesday, I was in Circuit City picking up a new TivoHD machine. While I was there, I noticed that 300 was out on both high-def disc formats. I haven’t seen 300, but have heard mostly good things, and figured it was worth a try.

I noticed it first on HD-DVD. Since I can play both formats, I’m pretty neutral when it comes to which one I pick up. Usually it’s whatever one I find first. If I order, I choose Blu-Ray most of the time, unless the HD-DVD of the same film is significantly lower in price. Which, so far, has not happened much.

Now, Circuit City is not exactly a user-friendly store, but I did manage to find their high-def disc section. I found 300 in HD-DVD first – it was $34.99. That’s over my $30 limit for a movie, so no go. Then I turned the corner and saw the Blu-Ray version of the same movie for $27.99. An easy choice! But why such a significant price difference? Aren’t HD-DVDs supposed to be cheaper, as they can use the same mastering equipment?

Ah… but now I see what is different. 300 is being sold in the moronic dual format, the HD-DVD Combo Disc! This is an HD-DVD disc on one side, with a regular DVD on the other side. So, you get two versions for one! For the price of both combined! This is the stupidest idea I’ve seen since this idiotic format war began.

Why would anyone want both formats? If you can play HD-DVDs… you have no need at all for the regular DVD version. And if you don’t have an HD-DVD player – then why would you pay $35.00 for a “combo” version when you can get the regular DVD version for $15.00? It makes no sense whatsoever. To make matters worse, the studios never offer a “non-combo” version. If you want the HD-DVD of the movie, it’s the combo version or nothing.

And – HD-DVD combo format discs have a host of problems that normal HD-DVDs do not. For example, I bought Children of Men the day it came out. And, sure enough, it was a combo disc. I put it in my XBox360 HD-DVD drive… and nothing. It just spun around and never loaded. So, I sent it back to Amazon for a replacement. A week or so later, I got a replacement copy – which also did not work. Finally, after 3 weeks, I got a copy that worked.

Come to find out, the reason it took so many tries… was that apparently there’s a problem when making these combo discs. Basically, they glue a regular DVD onto the back of an HD-DVD. And apparently, sometimes this gluing process screws up the HD side, and renders it unplayable. Had Universal simply made it a regular HD-DVD, there would have been no problems.

So, let’s sum up:

  • HD-DVD combo Discs costs more than regular, plain HD-DVD discs.
  • You get a extra side that you will never play, and which is duplicate of the side you actually want.
  • The discs have a higher failure rate than normal HD-DVDs

What idiot thought this up? And how long before these go the way of the dinosaur? I cannot for the life of me understand why the backers of HD-DVD continue to put out these expensive lemons that no one wants. If they want HD-DVD to survive (and/or “win”), drop the combo concept. Now.

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