So, do we really need Blu-ray drives?

The relatively new release of PowerDVD 12 is a program with a bit of a task on its hands. The Ultra edition sells for around £80, and the job of publisher Cyberlink is to convince us that it’s worth shelling out that amount of cash for a piece of software to, at heart, play back discs. Settled, it has mobile and 3D features and many other things like that. But its core job, surely, remains pretty much unchanged: you put a movie disc in your drive, and expect it to play.
However, it’s fighting a tough battle on more than one front. At a time when VLC has finally been able to release a beta that supports the Blu-ray format, it does seem as though apathy towards the format as a whole is prevalent, particularly amongst PC users.
So it comes to the point where we end up asking, do we actually need Blu-ray drives in our PCs
How many, if you scan through the frequent adverts for pre-built systems, offer a Blu-ray drive as standard, either on desktop or laptop? And why would they? How many of us, really, are adamant on a Blu-ray drive as a core part of a system build or upgrade? At a point where predictions maintain that Blu-ray will outsell DVD in 2015, it seems the balance of hardware sales suggests anything but.

Do we need Blu-ray drives and what’s the Incentive?

So where is the incentive to put a Blu-ray build as part of a PC build? For movie playback, the benefit of Blu-ray is, primarily, in the improved presentation of the main feature. A 1080p video transfer certainly offers advantages over the capabilities offered by the DVD format, but it’s questionable, given the size of the screens many of us use for our desktop machines, whether it’s worth the bother. Especially when assorted online services will sell you a legal high definition download, which will work quite happily without messing around with a disc, and the likes of PowerDVD.
It’s not as if too many of us have a desktop PC connected to the TV, and the rise in media streaming devices, and economical ones at that, have lessened the demand for a media PC.
Additionally, DVD is still the dominant format for movies, even though Blu-ray has caught itself a decent market share. Blu-ray movies have to do battle with a massively-established rival that many are happy with, along with the elephant in the room: faster broadband speeds that are fuelling widespread piracy.
It feels more and more like it might just have been the right optical disc format, fatally brought to market a year or two later than it needed to be.

What Blu-ray Gaming?

What’s perhaps surprising, though, is how ambivalent PC gaming has been to the Blu-ray format, with no sign still, five years later, that it’s catching on. Here’s where an optical disc is being thoroughly outstripped by download services, and it has no answer to That said, PC games publishers never adopted Blu-ray, a format that’s been, instead, the mainstay of the PlayStation 3 alone.

That’s unsurprising: it’s Sony’s format, after all, and it gambled a lot on bringing it to market. Just to prevail as the high definition optical format of choice, Sony had to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to see off the threat of HD DVD, and had to put up the success of the PlayStation 3 as security.