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Opinion: Microsoft's Vrignaud, UbiSoft's DeLoura on Blu-ray

Opinion: Microsoft's Vrignaud, UbiSoft's DeLoura on Blu-ray

September 1, 2006 | By Brandon Boyer

September 1, 2006 | By Brandon Boyer
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More: Console/PC

Xbox strategy group member and outspoken blogger Andre Vrignaud has responded to a recent open dialogue with former Sony Development head and current technical director for Ubisoft, Mark DeLoura, regarding Sony's Blu-ray support with PS3, concluding, to his surprise, that the two are in "violent agreement."

Vrignaud kicked off the debate with two earlier posts on his Ozymandias blog, citing Sony claims that the Blu-ray's increased storage capacity were essential for its inclusion in its next generation hardware. On the contrary, said Vrignaud, it was drive speed that should be the deciding factor, and there, he concluded, the Blu-ray might fall short:

"At GDC Europe last year Sony mentioned in their presentation that the PS3 Blu-ray drive would have sustained peak transfer rates of 36 MBit/s (4.5 MB/s) at 1x speed. Since then it appears that the drive has been upgraded to a 2x drive, which would enable transfer rates of 9 MB/s. Assuming a full 50 GB Blu-ray disc, at this speed you'd need just over 90 minutes to read the entire disc through memory. Of course, you can't fit all of that data into system memory at the same time, so you'll either be streaming a great deal (hard even with faster optical drives) and/or caching data to the hard drive. There's a reason the PS3 is so expensive - once Sony committed to Blu-ray as a corporate strategy, they were also forced to bundle the hard drive in every box to help mitigate slow disc data transfer rates. PS3 games need that hard drive to load in any reasonable time - just look at the PSP for an example of the effects of a slow optical drive on game loading times."

The post prompted a fast response from DeLoura, adding a litany of reasons why capacity was indeed a deciding factor:

"Audio on PS2 was mostly stereo, two channels. PS3 is 5.1. That's a 3x size increase without even considering fidelity.

Default video format has moved from 480i, or roughly 640x480 at 30 frames per second (9.2 million pixels per second), to 720p. 720p is 1280x720 at 60 frames per second (55.3 million pixels per second). That's about a 6x size increase. 6 x 2GB would again push us over the DVD-9 size."

In his most recent post, Vrignaud takes issue with those claims, mentioning the Xbox's already standing 5.1 audio and increased processing power offsetting the cost of video resolution with more powerful compression schemes.

But it's on the subject of format throughput and marketing demand that the two were able to find some common ground.

DeLoura does concede that the Xbox 360's 12x DVD, which reads at 16MB/second, gives it a clear speed advantage over the PS3's 2x BD drive at 9MB/second, making for significantly faster load times in games, as well as a much cheaper component price for Microsoft. But that point doesn't necessary dissuade him entirely from Sony's BD strategy.

Instead, he points out that high numbers of PS2 early adoption could be taken as a result of its double-duty as an inexpensive DVD player, which could also similarly drive early PS3 sales as an inexpensive BD player, despite its increased cost as a console:

"Blu-Ray drives and discs have been very sparse so marketplace awareness is slight - it is more accurate to compare against the BD launches of 2006, which would make Blu-Ray for PS3 significantly earlier in the marketplace than was DVD for PS2.

The result is that the Blu-Ray drives for PS3 are expensive, and the demand for Blu-Ray movies in the marketplace has not flowered open yet. PS3 could stoke that fire, but it doesn't seem likely that Blu-Ray will significantly drive sales of the PS3 beyond a small hardcore market, in the short term.

It seems the decision to include Blu-Ray on PS3 must have been a difficult one. Long term it seems like a smart move, at least from the perspective of capacity. But short term that decision has definitely had some striking ramifications for PS3."

In response, Vrignaud summarizes:

"We seem to generally agree from across the (former) divide. Blu-ray as a system driver would be a lot more effective if there wasn't this whole format war thing going on. Until that's satisfactorily resolved (or dual-format players come on the market), consumers are just going to hold off. From my perspective it doesn't really matter as I'll have both a PS3 and an Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive the day they come out. But people with families to support or less disposable income are going to be deciding their PS3 purchase decision based on the system's merits as a game player, not a movie player."

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