The Boston Globe looks at ‘hidden costs’ of HD

HD, according to companies like Sony, is going to feature heavily into this self-proclaimed next-generation of gaming. But is a new coat of paint on the same house really worth the true buy-in costs? Much has been said of console pricing here and elsewhere, but I think there’s still a massive amount of confusion and misinformation which the Boston Globe looks at today.

“The problem with high-def, if you’re a consumer, and the magical profit opportunity, if you’re a studio, cable firm, or electronics company, is what Jim Denney, vice president of product marketing at TiVo, calls ‘the cascading effect.’

Buy a high-def TV set ($1,000 for a Samsung 32-incher), and you’ll suddenly realize you need a new box from the cable company ($9.20 a month from Comcast). Then you notice that the shows you record on your old TiVo, even if transmitted in high-def, aren’t being recorded that way ($799 for a new TiVo Series 3 HD digital video recorder).

Home movies look better when shot with a high-def video recorder ($1,400 for a Sony HD model). And let’s not forget watching Hollywood blockbusters ($718 for a Blu-ray player from Samsung, or $549 for an HD DVD player from Toshiba) and playing videogames ($499 for Sony’s new PlayStation 3, available next month ).”

If you look even deeper, you start to see why things like Blu-Ray and HD DVD have less and less to do with gaming, and more to do with winning format wars. I pity the poor high school aged Best Buy high worker tasked with explaining to a parent in December all of the “extras” the $600 console he holds in hands requires to work properly. Oh, you want pick up and play? Fun? Well why don’t you go check out that big white, trendy looking display area over there. Somehow, over the past year, Sony has managed to turn their powerful gaming machine into more of a niche than PC gaming. They call it a computer now, so maybe that was the idea all along. But when analysts are saying other consoles, like the 360, might be suffering in sales because of a little thing like the DS, that’s a damning niche to be in.

Today — and for the indefinite future IMO — this is what will drive many people looking solely for solid, fun games away from HDTV and into the eager hands of Nintendo. Unlike with space saving, no-need-to-rewind DVDs, HD fulfills no need on the part of the consumer, and the price is not yet at the point where it’s even a hail mary impulse buy. I think Nintendo recognized this, and realized that the next shift in gaming is going to come in placing control of the game literally back into the hands of the player, as well as in the community model online that has been proven to work with games like WOW and Second Life. People laugh at the “tommy, your ice cream is in the fridge, love mom” message board that allows for posting notes, but I think you’ll be surprised at how much of a hub this tiny little box and its growing stable of Wii Channels becomes for gamers and their families and friends alike. And all without HD. Imagine that. Simplicity over strength. That’s in the Bible somewhere, so it’s got to be true.