Formats die all the time. It's sad but it's inevitable.
The exact point that any given format dies is usually hard to pinpoint, since manufacturers will often try and prop them up Weekend at Bernie's style after their natural expiration date. They try all manner of tricks to persuade folks that a given format is still alive and kicking when it might otherwise be curled up peacefully in the format afterworld, nestling gently against a Laserdisc player and decorated with a wreath of BSB squarials.
Look, I'm not particularly good at research or backing my case up with irritating trivialities like facts or evidence, but there's one thing I know for sure. I've seen an awful lot of video and gaming formats retreat from dominance of the shelves over to a sad little stand in the corner of my local HMV. I have never, ever seen one of them stage a resurgence later. I didn't see VHS come flooding back to prominence shortly after the format backed off into soon-to-die corner. Sega Saturn games weren't suddenly back in vogue a few months later, the shelving reorganisation having been deemed a huge mistake. HD DVD didn't troop bravely back out onto the main shop floor after a period of licking its wounds and drinking large revitalising mugs of Bovril in the refreshing shade of the earphones section.
(I'm not entirely sure that HD DVD formats were particularly fond of drinking Bovril at all, for that matter. See I told you I wasn't particularly good at research.)
So, what does my incredibly scientific observation about the back-corner of HMV lead me to conclude? Well, the back-corner of my local store currently houses all the remaining Blu Rays that used to be filed alongside the DVDs out in the main shop.
Thus Blu Ray, as a medium for distributing feature films, is dead.
It was the last mainstream physical format. We will not see its like again, etc. Taken from us too soon, it never properly escaped from the shadow of its older brother DVD, largely because unlike DVD (which represented a massive step-up from the format preceding it) the advantages presented by Blu Ray never particularly outweighed the disadvantages of switching to a whole new format and hoping that the entire world followed suit.
In the absence of a genuine reason for customers to upgrade unless their home set-up was properly bloody massive, the last few years have seen a number of those Weekend at Bernie's, prop-up-the-corpse tricks that I mentioned at the top of the article. I've seen a few suspiciously poor standard definition releases, making the Blu option look like a bigger jump in comparison. Also, extended versions of popular titles have increasingly only been available on Blu Ray. Want the extended version of (the surprisingly good fun) Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters on DVD? Tough. Blu Ray only. Want the extended version of A Good Day to Die Hard on DVD? Tough. Blu Ray only. Want an extended version of Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part One? On any format? No, me neither. Christ, that film was awful.
So, that's Blu Ray done for then. My local HMV (Southend branch, since you ask. An unscientific polling of my Twitter feed suggests that results may vary by region) has spoken.
I was busy writing up this tragic phenomenon when something else happened. Like celebrity deaths happening in clusters of two or three, I was still reeling one formatastrophe when I was hit by another. The BBC made an announcement that it was to suspend 3D programming indefinitely.
No! Surely not 3D, too? 3D TV broadcasts, as beloved by absolutely nobody that I've ever met? Surely not 3D programming, as watching by the average consumer for 45 seconds on a display model in one of those big branches of Currys before they mutter the immortal words "I don't think I'll bother, actually"?
3D TV was always a bit of a wonky proposition. It looked like it might have been a goer for about a minute and a half in the direct aftermath of Avatar, but was rapidly undermined by the fact that people generally don't watch TV in the same way that they watch a movie they've just paid over a tenner to check out in the cinema. Whilst watching TV, consumers tend to continue interacting with the world around them. They tweet, they potter about, they argue with their partner about who ate the good biscuits. They generally don't, as a rule of thumb, strap something to their head and sit motionless is a particular part of the room. It's just too much of an ask for an effect that is basically a parlour trick which gets pretty old pretty quickly.
So, two new dead formats on the pile. Let's bury them together, and not succumb to regrets. Let's keep the farewell as dignified as we can. Treasure the memories, and move on.
Once we've finished propping the corpses up and pretending that they're alive for another 18 months, of course.
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