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Hopes for unified next-gen DVD standard dashed as talks stall

Talks between electronics giants Sony and Toshiba aimed at agreeing on a unified next-generation disc format have collapsed, meaning that the incompatible Blu-Ray and HD-DVD formats will both probably make it to market.

Talks between electronics giants Sony and Toshiba aimed at agreeing on a unified next-generation disc format have collapsed, meaning that the incompatible Blu-Ray and HD-DVD formats will both probably make it to market.

Speaking in a press conference, Sony Computer Entertainment boss Ken Kutaragi said: "There's very little chance that the negotiations will go through." This follows Toshiba's announcement last month that it would not agree to a unified format based around the Blu-Ray disc.

Kutaragi went on to discuss Sony's decision to adopt Blu-Ray for the PS3, claiming that "product planning" had forced the company to make a choice early on.

Both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, Toshiba's favoured format, use blue lasers rather than red to store data at higher densities. Companies already behind the Blu-Ray format include Philips, Apple, Hitachi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Samsung and LG.

HD-DVD supporters include NEC and Sanyo, and more than 80 films from studios such as Paramount, Warner Bros and Universal are slated for release on the format later this year.

Sony had been hoping to avoid a VHS vs. Betamax-style format war by opening talks with Toshiba back in February, but the two companies found it impossible to agree over storage.

Blu-Ray discs can hold 50GB of data, while HD-TV discs only store 30GB. But the HD-TV camp argues that this is more than adequate, and that manufacturing costs are lower as the discs can be produced with current-gen machinery - making the format cheaper and therefore more appealing to consumers.

Blu-Ray supporters say capacity should take priority over cost of production - adding that although such a large amount of storage might not be essential now, it will be required in the future as high-definition entertainment becomes increasingly popular.

The next generation of DVD players is expected to roll out to the mass market at the end of the year, and it now seems certain that both Blu-Ray and HD TV products will be found on the shelves.

The decision to use Blu-Ray in the PlayStation 3 may prove decisive in this battle; the PlayStation 2 was widely seen as the device that brought DVD to the masses in many territories, and HD-DVD may struggle to gain a foothold in a market where many consumers will already own Blu-Ray players thanks to their console purchase.

- Ellie Gibson, News Editor, GamesIndustry.biz

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Ellie Gibson

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Ellie spent nearly a decade working at Eurogamer, specialising in hard-hitting executive interviews and nob jokes. These days she does a comedy show and podcast. She pops back now and again to write the odd article and steal our biscuits.

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