I own five movies on Blu-ray: Inception, 127 Hours, and the original Star Wars trilogy. I recently purchased Game of Thrones Season 3 on Blu-ray. I do not own a Blu-ray player. I do not own a PS3 or a PS4. I do not, in fact, have any way to play these Blu-ray discs. But I still own them. Why?
I own these Blu-ray discs because I wanted the DVD versions of these movies and that meant my only option was buying the Blu-ray discs that came included with the Blu-rays. As far as I can tell, there is no standalone DVD collection to buy, much as there wasn’t for any of my other purchases. At least the price was right; I picked up the entire season for just under $30 on Amazon. Hilariously, it came with not only the DVD and the Blu-ray versions, but also a code for a digital download of the entire season, because why not. I can put it on my laptop since that machine doesn’t have a disc drive.
I understand why they’re doing it this way. Even though Blu-ray killed off its rival format HD-DVD in the high definition disc format wars of 2008, Blu-ray has failed to displace its true rivals, the humble DVD and the ability to stream video instantly from services like Netflix.
The frustrating part is that eventually, I know this strategy will win out. When I opened my first Blu-ray box to retrieve the DVD I wanted to watch, I smirked. How foolish it would be for me to buy a new Blu-ray player simply because I owned a single Blu-ray disc that I didn’t even want!
But now that I have five movies and a season of my favorite show and it doesn’t seem quite so silly. At this point, why wouldn’t I buy one?
Even though this has been going on for a while, the third season of Game of Thrones is the first product I’ve purchased that indicated to me just how thin distributors’ patience is with my DVD watching shenanigans. It’s pretty clear at this point that my preference for DVD means I’m a second class consumer. They really want me to stop what I’m doing and get a Blu-ray player. Here’s how I know this.
When you open the Game of Thrones box set, you immediately notice the absolutely gorgeous case design. The plastic sleeve creates the shadow of the dragon on the cover and it looks amazing. When you open the box, you’re treated to the detailed portraits of the main characters. This is a detail that’s been included in each DVD set thus far, but it’s still cool to see the development reflected in the characters’ faces. Jaime isn’t looking too good these days.
As you unfold the box set, the long row of gleaming discs spreads out before you, each one new and shiny. These are the Blu-ray discs and they look and feel absolutely lovely. But where are the DVDs?
For a moment, there is panic! Maybe you only thought you were ordering a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from Amazon. Maybe you didn’t pay close enough attention . . .
Oh, wait. What’s that tucked underneath the box of gleaming discs with its handsome portraits?
A tiny little sleeve about the thickness of an envelop with two discs stuffed inside. Two discs? How can Game of Thrones fit on two discs? Oh. These are two double-sided discs. It’s all crammed in there. Well, at least you have all the episodes to watch, even if the double-sided means you’re forever going to be putting the disc in on the wrong side relative to the episode you want to watch.
When you put them side-by-side, the disparity is obvious. The Blu-ray consumer has a handsome case with its shadow-dragon sheath, its portraits, and its girth; nearly an inch thick when folded up.
The DVD consumer has a thin cardboard envelop.
I’ll still watch and enjoy my DVDs. But every time I open the case to retrieve them, I’ll notice my Blu-ray discs sitting untouched in their gleaming beauty, all the while whispering silently: Watch us instead. Buy a Blu-ray player. Give in to our marketing strategy . . .