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Impact of Xbox One S on 4K Blu-ray Could be Mixed, Analysts Say

21 Jun, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Xbox One S with 4K Blu-ray Disc Drive

News that Microsoft’s new Xbox One S video game console would include a 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc drive could help jumpstart the format’s packaged-media sales, say industry experts.

Priced at $299, the Xbox One S is about $100 less than 4K Blu-ray Disc players from Samsung (UBD-K8500) and Panasonic (DMP-UB900). Sony’s pending PlayStation 4 Neo is expected to include a 4K BD drive.

Without a Blu-ray/HD DVD format war that stymied rollout of the former, wider access to 4K BD content should help drive packaged-media sales. Indeed, despite adoption of 4K UHD TVs beginning only last year, more than 52% of respondents in a recent survey by The NPD Group said they were aware of the format.

“Having both major gaming consoles support UHD would be a benefit to format adoption [because it] presents a united front and industry standard that consumers can get comfortable with,” NPD analyst Vincent May told M&E Connections.

While observers acknowledge the impact PS2 had on DVD adoption (and to a lesser extent PS3 on Blu-ray), packaged-media since then has taken a hit at retail with the advent of subscription video streaming and digital transactions.

Indeed, with 4K BD titles more expensive due to bundling with BD, DVD and Digital HD, May wonders if consumers will instead opt for less-expensive 4K streaming or standalone DVD. Regardless, he believes Xbox One S will have a bigger impact on 4K Blu-ray Disc adoption than PS3 had on Blu-ray. 

“Availability and price are big factors,” May said.

Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft's Xbox division, June 20 said the company’s Project Scorpio device (launching in 2017) would have 4K mandate, while at the same time not be beholden to the UHD format.

"Scorpio is designed as a 4K console, and if you don't have a 4K TV, the benefit we've designed for, you're not going to see," he said. "Clearly, you can buy Scorpio, and if and when you decide you want to buy a 4K television to take advantage of the increased performance, obviously the console will be ready for you,” Spencer said in an online chat, according to VideoGamer.com.

“We're going to talk more specifics about Project Scorpio … later. But I think creative freedom and how you want to use the power of the box is something that I would support.”

Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, contends wider access to 4K physical media on game consoles is a good thing. At the same time with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video offering limited 4K streaming content to non-gamers, Pachter wonders if 4K packaged media is too late.

“Internet streaming of 4K content is available now, so it's not clear that it will make much of an impact to have a cheaper 4K UHD media player. It's probably not cost-justified to buy a standalone 4K BD player,” he said in an email.

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