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Interviews

Blu-ray, Xbox and everything in-between

We grill the European BR Association on Microsoft and more

The relationship between the video games industry and the Blu-ray disc gives us a rare, often very public, insight into the differences between Sony and Microsoft's view of the future.

In one corner, Xbox: Having seen its choice of media, the HD-DVD, fail and drop out of the market, Microsoft now believes that 1080p streaming content will soon dominate entertainment.

In the other, PS3: Blu-ray is at the centre of Sony's baby - and the platform holder is confident it will become the public's de facto entertainment format in the next few years.

Zoom

It may not surprise you to hear that the European Blu-ray Disc Association believes the latter has got its head screwed on.

But, as chairman and Warner exec Graham Heaton explains, the organisation is all ears if Microsoft ever wants to change its mind...

There is some debate in gaming about what the future-proof format really is - digital download/streaming or Blu-ray disc. Why are you so confident that Blu-ray has the legs to become gaming's de facto format over the next few years?

The amount of data required for a blockbuster game is getting bigger and bigger by the day. Already games such as Metal Gear Solid 4 and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves are pushing the limits of the Blu-ray 50GB discs.

The infrastructure for broadband throughout the world varies greatly and is a long way from being able to support the downloading and streaming of 50GB games in a consumer friendly format.

It will be a very long time before this changes, so BD is in a ideal position to ensure that the best games are available to all gamers.

Put simply, what can a Blu-ray disc do in gaming that a DVD cannot?

Games for consoles such as PlayStation 3 are already getting close to being 50GB in size. With a limit on DVD of 9GB per disc, you are talking about numerous discs for one game, which makes the whole experience very unwieldy.

With BD, this is not an issue and future growth in capacity is very much possible, so as games increase in size, BD will be able to increase with them, something not possible with DVD.

Are you seeing video games developers moving towards developing for Blu-ray as their data requirements increase year-on-year?

PlayStation 3 is at the forefront of high definition gaming and as such the majority of games are of a significant size, too big to be stored on a single DVD.

In addition to the games themselves, it is becoming more common for PS3 games to include bonus content, only available due to the extra storage capacity of BD. This content ranges from the re-mastering of an earlier iteration of a franchise e.g. Medal of Honor to behind the scenes documentaries, extra levels or demos.

Do you expect more games to go PS3 exclusive in future as this trend takes place?

The age of third-party exclusives is coming to an end - and the emphasis is moving more and more towards the first-party game studios, who can dedicate time and resource to getting the best out of their consoles.

Games such as Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, which has a Metacritic score of 96% and LittleBigPlanet, which has a Metacritic score of 95%, show how PlayStation's Worldwide Studios have optimised the PS3 to create the highest quality exclusive titles.

How do you think the 100GB Blu-ray disc just announced might affect gaming in future?

The ambition of developers is unlimited and therefore you will see new and exciting innovations that could well require additional storage capacity. BD is in a position to be able to grow with the industry and ensure that disc storage capacity can support the ambitions of the developers.

Would you welcome MS to the Blu-ray fold with Xbox should it change its mind?

Any company willing to join would be welcome.

Do you think that the likes of Microsoft - with its Xbox 360 and/or future consoles - will eventually have to adopt Blu-ray gaming capability in order to compete?

That is up to Microsoft to decide.

How big can the Blu-ray disc get? Can you see a day where we're talking about 500GB discs?

Such capacity is currently not on the roadmap.

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