Blu-ray and The Blockbuster Syndrome

Let’s call this a combination of a “Fun Friday” and a “Flashback Friday.” Why? Because back in 2014 I wrote this editorial, telling you why I thought Blu-ray disc was dead. It was a fairly controversial opinion six years ago, but this looks like one of those rare cases where I was actually right and I have something from the past which proves it.

Take a look at this video which I found from a few weeks ago:

It would seem the “angry video game nerd” agrees with me. He not only goes through my criticism pretty much word for word but he adds plenty of his own. Yes, it’s true that Blu-ray Disc was flawed from top to bottom and I completely agree with almost everything he’s saying. The stuff I don’t agree with is just due to his not spending enough time learning the format. But should you really have to spend half an hour to understand the intricacies if you just want to watch the movie?

And it’s a real shame too

I have a fair number of Blu-ray Discs that originally came with “digital copies.” Digital copies, if you don’t remember, were a sort of transitional technology where you could get an iTunes or Google Play code along with a physical disc purchase. Originally these were real digital copies that you stored on your PC. In later days they were just codes that let you stream.

When I go back and look at the physical Blu-ray Disc version of Marvel’s The Avengers, which is an 8-year-old movie. I’m amazed by the quality from the disc. It looks better on HD than it does on 4K streaming! This doesn’t surprise me, since I’ve been saying that for years. But it’s pretty sad, that’s all.

There’s a lot of details that you’re missing when you stream. Some of these movies have the potential to look stunningly gorgeous, but you’ll never know it since the 4K stream is compressed so much. Physical media would make that problem go away, but we’ll probably never see physical media again thanks to the way Blu-ray Disc was bungled.

The Blockbuster syndrome

I’m trying out a new term for this problem. I’ll call it “The Blockbuster Syndrome.” Here it is… feel free to share this.

The Blockbuster Syndrome: When an existing technology is so poorly implemented that another, inferior, technology rises up and takes its place.

For example, Blockbuster. There was a time is this country when you could drive under 5 miles in most places and go to a Blockbuster Video. You could find 10,000 choices all available to take home and watch instantly.

But the problem was, Blockbuster Video was incredibly poorly managed. From long lines to shortages of common films, to “new release” walls with films from 10 years ago, going to a Blockbuster Video was a cringeworthy experience. It was also expensive, especially if you –heaven forbid– forgot to return a movie.

Blockbuster’s experience caused people to jump at the chance to sign up for Netflix when it was a DVD-delivery service. People decided they’d rather wait days or weeks for a movie than go to a Blockbuster Video and get it the same day. When notoriously impatient Americans are willing to wait just so they can avoid your store, you know you have problems.

Why Blu-ray Disc is the same thing

In the video above, the Angry Video Game Nerd agrees with me. He admits that sometimes he’ll actually rent a movie he already owns. He doesn’t want to deal with packaging issues, long load times, and tons of garbage before the movie. I haven’t ever paid for a movie I already own, but there are plenty of times I’ll watch an inferior streaming version when the Blu-ray Disc version is ten steps away. I know if I turn on my Blu-ray Disc player for the first time this month it will want an update, then the disc will take a minute to load, then I’ll have to wait for the menus, watch commercials, trailers, whatever.

So I’m willing to accept something technologically inferior because it’s so annoying to use the better thing. That’s the Blockbuster syndrome. Unlike Blockbuster itself, it’s not likely to simply disappear into the past, as much as I wish it would.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 9,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.