Xbox 360 Blu-ray drive predicted

Following the final nail in the coffin of the HD DVD format earlier today, TechRadar contacted Microsoft to find out more about possible plans for a Blu-ray add-on drive for the Xbox 360.

Microsoft, as expected, is currently remaining silent on the matter, serving us with the following pre-prepared statement:

"We do not believe the recent reports about HD DVD will have any material impact on the Xbox 360 platform or our position in the marketplace. As we’ve long stated, we believe it is games that sell consoles and Xbox 360 continues to have the largest next-gen games library with the most exclusives and best selling games in the industry."

Not as much vested interest in HD DVD

Games industry analysts are currently divided on the issue, with Paul Jackson, principal analyst over at Forrester Group telling TechRadar today:

“Of course, Microsoft supplied technology to the HD DVD consortium, but didn’t have anywhere near as much vested interest in it as Toshiba, which [along with cost] is partially the reason why it didn't put an HD DVD drive in the 360 originally,” Jackson reminded us.

Following today’s news of the end of HD DVD and going from Forrester’s latest study of the sector from late 2007, Jackson predicts that the industry “will start to see a pick up in Blu-ray player and title sales”. He added that, “a good quarter of consumers were holding off until they knew who the winner was, according to our research”.

Blu-ray or downloads? Or both?

But the real question, particularly for the casual gaming consumer that is still to buy an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3, is this – will Microsoft release a Blu-ray movie player add-on drive for the Xbox 360?

Jackson told us: “This all feeds into more consumers adopting Blu-ray. While Microsoft still has issues with Sony in general, as long as it can get it out for around the same price [as the PS3] then it is a possibility.”

“The question is whether they balance that against 'are we better sticking to pure digital distribution'' - which is ultimately the way to go,” he added.

Blu-ray 360 for Xmas?

Should a Blu-ray 360 add-on drive emerge, when would we be likely to see it? This Christmas perhaps? Or even sooner?

“Some reports have said May, which seems extremely unlikely to me, unless Microsoft has been doing some black ops with a third-party Blu-ray manufacturer such as Getronics,” Jackson joked. “Though one would have thought that something would have surfaced if that were the case, pictures from the production line or some such,” he added.

“If they are going to do it, then they may as well do it this year, capitalising on the increasingly high demand for HD TVs.”

Other industry pundits were not so sure Microsoft will jump on the Blu-ray wagon, preferring instead to concentrate on digital downloads. Nick Gibson from Games Investor Consulting told TechRadar: “I think the strategy will be to bring out new models with ever greater hard drive storage capacity, following on from the Xbox 360 Elite.”

Adam Hartley