The Real Reason HD DVD Failed

In March of 2006, as reported by, a bright new dawn peaked over the technological horizon, when Toshiba released its first consumer HD DVD player. It would be an understatement to describe this device as the pinnacle of man's engineering aptitude. It could do anything, from playing HD DVDs, to ... uh. Anyway, retailing at the bargain basement price of ¥110,000 (a little over $1000, adjusted for inflation), Toshiba stated its intention to sell between 600 thousand and 700 thousand units over the course of the next year. And lo, a new and glorious era of everlasting physical media was born.

Only, of course, it wasn't. After a brief but fiery format war with Sony's Blu-ray, HD DVDs disappeared entirely. Today, your best bet at finding an HD DVD disc or player would be to dig through the Mass Grave of Un-Beloved Technology, where you'll find piles of the things sandwiched somewhere between the layers of Theranos Edison boxes, Nokia NGages, and other lost billionaire fortunes. What went wrong?

Thanks very much, Ray

By most accounts, the Blu-ray/HD DVD battle should've gone to Toshiba. Blu-ray was developed by Sony, the company behind Betamax players, giving them a less-than-stellar reputation in the field. HD DVDs were cheaper, not to mention easier to integrate into computers. By the end of 2006, HD DVDs were outselling Blu-rays just about every week, according to Mental Floss.

But as with so many wrong ideas that people had over ten years ago, there was a secret ingredient which Sony had, that Toshiba didn't: Namely, the sweaty, Dorito-tinted palms of Playstation gamers. By including Blu-ray capacity in all of their video game consoles, which were already cheaper than most vanilla media players at the time, the company Trojan Horsed their format into houses across the world. 750,000 HD DVD player sales in the U.S. suddenly paled in comparison to 2 million-plus Playstation purchases. In early 2008, Warner Brothers, which at the time was only two-thirds of the way through a figurative decade-long champagne bubble bath thanks to the Harry Potter franchise, announced its decision to back Blu-ray exclusively. Or, to put it another way, gamers and nerds changed the world. Again.