The cause could be a variety of factors, from the failing economy to the summer gaming doldrums, but the effect is clear: Blu-Ray as a media format is in decline.
The news has to be worrisome for Sony, whose PlayStation 3 console has the Blu-Ray disc format as a cornerstone of its strategy to get a multi-purpose gaming and media hub into homes the world over.
In response to the sluggish sales, Sony even went so far as to drastically slash its Blu-Ray player prices to the magic US$200 mark, a la Microsoft with the Xbox 360, with other models going for as low as $250 as of this writing. Tech blog Engadget called the new price points "unquestionably delectable," but another observer at the Industry Standard said the cuts and a number of other indicators betray the fact that conditions may not be so rosy.
For example, in the latest Wired magazine, Sony and Microsoft went so far as to include a free Blu-Ray disc, the seven part film noir flick Coma, as part of a full page insert.
"I don't know how much this is costing Sony and its partners, but it can't be cheap -- Wired's paid circulation is 706,494, and this press release indicates that other magazines may be involved," wrote Industry Standard writer Ian Lamont.
Sony is betting the price cuts (and the PS3) will bolster Blu-Ray in time for the winter holiday, but Lamont is wary--especially as more and more consumers turn to the Internet and services like iTunes for their HD content.
"Sony better hope that mainstream consumers feel the same way [about the price cuts], or the company risks another weak Christmas for Blu-ray this year -- and losing out in an even bigger way when consumers begin to turn to the Internet for their HD content," he said.