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Business on Pause

24 Jan, 2006 By: Stephanie Prange

In years past, it seemed things in this industry were moving so fast we could hardly keep up. Retailers were merging and emerging as forces in the DVD business. Sellthrough goliaths such as Wal-Mart and upstarts such as Netflix were putting new pressure on the rental chains. Two, in fact, merged in the Movie Gallery-Hollywood deal. Blockbuster fought back with “no late fees” and its own online rental service.

A format battle raged, and speculation was rampant that a compromise was in the offing. We waited to see which studios would align with Blu-ray Disc and which with HD DVD.

We waited with anticipation as each new classic franchise made it to DVD — “Indiana Jones,” “The Godfather,” “Star Wars.”

In the game realm, anticipation for the next-generation game systems grew as we waited — and are still waiting — for the face off between Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

This year, the industry seems stuck on pause. The rental chains — and the rental business in general — seem out of new ideas. Indeed, it seems all Blockbuster can think to do is close stores.

The format battle is coming — sometime — we just don't know when. After numerous broken promises, no one is holding their breath.

Most of the classic franchises are already released on DVD. There are a few catalog gems left. It will be the new releases that will bring excitement — and no doubt more ups and downs — in the business in the future.

The game industry is still awaiting PlayStation 3, which some say won't happen in the spring as promised. Xbox 360 launched to much fanfare, but quickly sold out, ending in a supply crunch. Analyst Michael Pachter, in this week's issue, laments that the game business won't take off again until the PlayStation 3 comes out. “The question is, when is the damn thing launching, and how many units will there be, and how much software?”

My question is, when will the video industry move off pause?

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