Freebies caused Blu-ray spike in Jan

The collapse in HD DVD sales in mid-January is now partly being blamed on a series of Blu-ray promotions

Data firm NPD has issued a warning over leaked sales data that showed Blu-ray surging ahead of HD DVD in early January.

The data appeared to show a complete collapse in sales for standalone HD DVD players, and an increase in sales for Blu-ray despite both formats being neck and neck the week before. Many blamed the collapse on Warner Bros' announcement on Friday 4 January that it was dropping support for HD DVD.

However NPD says that a series of promotions run by Sony, Sharp and Panasonic in early January is the true cause of the sales boom. That's because all three firms either gave away a Blu-ray player - or heavily discounted the cost - when anyone bought a new TV. These 'freebie' sales accounted for 30 per cent of total Blu-ray stats for the week, with Blu-ray chalking up 21,770 sales in total compared to HD DVD's 1,758.

The 12 January totals also didn't include sales from online stores like Amazon (opens in new tab), which has the Toshiba HD-A3 HD DVD player ranked 6th among HD DVD players and 14th among all electronics, Betanews says. Not one Blu-ray player makes it into Amazon's electronics list. The numbers also don't include sales of the Sony PlayStation 3 or HD DVD add-on for the Xbox 360.

So where does this leave us now?

We may not be able to extrapolate from one week's sales data - and our original story doesn't - but that doesn't also mean we can't reach some broad conclusions about the state of the format war:

On sheer momentum alone, Blu-ray has everything going for it - the Warners' announcement, Fox's defection and rumoured support from Paramount and Universal makes it easily the most popular format in terms of software titles. Hardware-wise too Blu-ray has the lion's share of the big, credible household brands - Sony, Philips, Panasonic, Pioneer, Denon, etc, etc.

Still we can't help but feel sorry for HD DVD - it's a great little format, it's miles ahead of Blu-ray when it comes to interactive features and doesn't feel like a 'beta' product like its rival does. It doesn't deserve to lose. Really. But defeat looks increasingly, sadly, inevitable. HD DVD, we hardly knew ye.