Blu-ray vs. Digital Download: Why Blu-ray is the Future


The war between the two high definition formats, Blu-ray and HD DVD, seems to have come to a bloody end. Company after company has pledged its allegiance to Blu-ray, and things look grim for Toshiba. However, many in the industry claim Sony’s victory will be short lived in the face of a new nemesis, digital downloads.’s James Rivington goes over the facts and tell players why he believes that Blu-ray will survive in the face of digital downloads.

I agree that Blu-ray is safe for now. Many people, myself included, want to actually own a physical copy of their media. If I have a catastrophic failure of my computer, I can always rebuild from the discs I have on hand. However, many distributers of digital downloads want to limit the time period and number of installs you’re allowed to have. So in the event your game becomes corrupted or your CPU frags itself, you may actually have to repurchase your games if you bought them via digital download.

In short the digital download is renting or leasing where as Blu-ray is buying. Until they change that, I will be purchasing hard copies of all my media.


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13 Comments on Blu-ray vs. Digital Download: Why Blu-ray is the Future


On January 31, 2008 at 1:49 pm

YOU ARE FORGETTING STEAM. Steam is permanent and fixed to the account. Steam meets all your criteria, as long as you can still get your Steam password when your PC bricks it, you are safe and can redownload as much as you like.

used cisco

On January 31, 2008 at 2:14 pm

You have to define “own”.

I agree with Hutch to a certain extent, while also wanting to have what the author mentions.

I want a physical copy, yes, but I also like the idea of buying the “rights”, limited as they may be.

I have a few DVDs that got scratched and now don’t work well. I would really like a new copy of the MEDIA, but in order to get it, I have to repurchase. Thats where digital download is great, if your “copy” gets damaged, you can redownload it.


On January 31, 2008 at 2:18 pm

I do prefer to have a physical copy of something rarther than a digital copy…

Remeber aswell that Blu-ray is really durable, it dosnt scrath easy at all!


On January 31, 2008 at 2:19 pm

indeed as Hutch has said with Steam, the same happens with Xbox Live where purchases are linked to the gamertag. If for some reason you lose all data for your 360, you could recover your gamertag and then redownload all the previously purchased content.


On January 31, 2008 at 4:19 pm

What do you call this scenario?
I like the idea to download the movie without going out of house. But I don’t have computer in the living room. So I will download the movie to my computer and then burn to a Blu Ray disk and play it in my PS3 in the living room.


On January 31, 2008 at 5:06 pm

You’re forgetting another reason… unless all of us instantly have 30mb pipes, digital downloads will have to be compressed to a manageable download size. Extra compression means crappy quality and there isn’t a (legal) digital download that exists today that can come close to matching the pristine quality of a 1080p Blu-Ray disc.


On January 31, 2008 at 6:05 pm

Blu-ray is higher quality and faster, but downloading can be easier. Also, don’t forget DRM, which is worse for downloads.


On January 31, 2008 at 8:14 pm

You can also lose a hard copy, and then you’re screwed. You’re forced to re-purchase the item in that case.

I’m a thorough believer that digital distribution is the future, but I don’t disagree that Blu-ray is safe. It’s going to be years before digital distribution is actually available for all media (you can’t download console games that you’d buy in stores, for instance). Combine that and people’s hesitation to buy something they can’t hold in their hands, and it’s going to be quite a while before DD can be the norm.


On January 31, 2008 at 11:15 pm

In the future you will not “own” anything. Everything will be “licensed”. So yeah it wont matter if you have a hard copy or not.

And of course downloads will soon be the only source. “They” will finally give up and DRM will disappear forever! Soon being within the next decade, mark my words!!


On February 1, 2008 at 7:54 am

Hi all I agree with all of you as far as digital downloads go. But you are all missing one thing and that is that out of every 10 homes there is only 4 of them that have a computer in them. High speed internet is only available in large towns. So about half of the people in this world are able to download a movie and out of the half that can how many know how to, or be able to watch it on their computer or send it over to a TV to watch it. Alot of these people don’t know how to program a recorder to record a show off of tv. I don’t see digital download taking off until it is a simple as being able to select it off of a TV guide with your remote control something like a PVR is today with the ability to put a blank disc in the same unit and put the movie on it if they want to. If it isn’t simple only the techy person will be doing it. Which means the mass majority of the world will be buying physical media.


On February 4, 2008 at 8:01 am

Don’t forget too, where are you going to store all the D/Ls? A Blu-ray disk can hold around 50Gb. You only need a collection of 20 disks to be up to a TB of storage. *YOU* have to pay for that storage yourself. Add in the cost of local storage, convenience of pulling a disk out of a drawer and sticking it in the machine and I can’t see physical media ever going away completely.

Plus once you’ve watched a Blu-ray a few times you can always sell it on e-bay.

Can’t see that happening to d/l films.


On May 27, 2008 at 8:23 pm

I can’t believe all the justifications for thinking Bluray is going to last.

“A Blu-ray disk can hold 50GB, you’d need a TB of storage to hold just 20 movies”

True, but you are missing two important facts:
1) The feature film doesn’t necessarily require the full 50GB. In reality you are talking 20GB to 30GB for the feature film under optimal conditions.
2) Storage space is growing on a logarithmic scale. 10 years ago you could barely get a 1 GB drive. 10 years from now they’ll be talking about Petabyte hard drives which could hold 20,000 1080p high definition movies. Remember when storage space was a concern for your MP3 collection in the 90′s? Yeah…

I ripped my entire DVD and Bluray collection to my 2.5 Terabyte server a year ago. I’ve got 314 movies on there with no more compression than a standard DVD or Bluray disk and I still have 30% storage left. I just use my remote and pick a movie onscreen via my media streamer. THAT is the future, not having tons of media cases cluttering up your living room. Physical media belongs in the closet. If I could have downloaded it directly from an online store, I would have.

Once Fiber Optics and Docsis 3.0 take hold, there will no longer be a bandwidth limitation. Digital downloads are the obvious future for anyone with more foresight than one or two years down the road. Just look at what is happening to music. It’s just a sign of what to expect for movies once connections and hard drives scale up with time.


On December 15, 2008 at 3:06 pm

I agree with J5 regarding digital downloads being a better option FOR ME. For most others, I can’t see hardly anyone buying and setting up a 2.5 terabyte hd, ripping or downloading all their movies to it, and streaming them via a media server to their tv. For me, it’s the perfect solution, because I know how to do all that. But if that was the future, I’m with Gary that it needs to be as simple as point and click via a television interface, and not a computer interface. It needs to be seamless.

Plus, even though I’m a fan of digital downloads, backing them up can be a mess. It’s impracticle, to say the least, at this point to do on a 360 or ps3. iTunes backups are easy, but have to be done with a computer. I think it needs to be automatic and seamless for it to become mainstream. Then, you still need to fork over the cash for a media server, LOTS of hd storage and the interface to do this, which will raise the per-movie cost for a while. My preference overall is to purchase a physical copy, then back it up myself.

Another thing, regarding digital download, unless you have a huge pipeline, it takes forever to download. If you decide you want to buy a movie and watch it, I can get in my car and drive to Target, buy the movie, and get home and start watching it before the download would be finished. Plus, with digital download, you lose all the special features and bonus stuff, like included shorts. Not a huge deal, but I personally like watching them sometimes.

I think digital downloads will become easier and easier, and much more popular, but I think it will be a looooong time before it replaces physical media, if ever.