R.I.P. UMD Movies?
When I met with SCEA staff to spend some time with the PSP before its release I questioned them on the viability of UMD movies - especially at the prices they were planning on charging. "But, it's House of Flying Daggers!" the staffer exclaimed when I dared ask why anyone would spend $30 on a movie they can only watch on their PSP. After a brief honeymoon where Sony claimed several titles had sold over 100,000 copies, UMD sales have cooled considerably, and it seems that Hollywood is finally starting to question the format.
The Hollywood Reporter printed an article today that paints a grim picture for the struggling UMD market. The story goes on to say that both Universal Studios and Paramount have completely stopped producing UMD movies. "We continue to evaluate the PSP platform for each title, and if it makes sense for business reasons and the target audience, we will release them," spokeswoman for Paramount Pictures, Brenda Ciccone said. 20th Century Fox and Buena Vista are still producing UMD Movies, but are doing so on a limited basis.
Lest you think things aren't so bad for the format, the story includes a few more quotes from unnamed executives to get its point across:
"We are on hiatus with UMD. Releasing titles on UMD is the exception rather than the rule. No one's even breaking even on them."
"It's awful. Sales are near zilch. It's another Sony bomb -- like Blu-ray."
"No one's watching movies on PSP. It's a game player, period."
Current speculation has Sony developing a standalone UMD Movie player that will allow you to view your movies on TV. This will not allow you to hook your PSP up to the TV, however, as that simply makes too much sense. I'm not going to sugarcoat it for you - the format is dead. Sure there are a few movies coming out here and there, but when rumors are flying about Wal-Mart discontinuing UMD sales, the format's outlook is bleak.
3/31/2006 Aaron Thomas