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Euro HD DVD camp clams up on format sales figures

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The European HD DVD Promotional Group has refused to back up claims that the next-generation optical disc format it's backing is the movie buff's favourite by revealing how many HD DVD players have been bought over here.

Register Hardware asked it this question because earlier this week the organisation announced that numbers garnered independently by local market watcher GfK showed that 3.8 HD DVD discs have been sold for every player purchased in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the Benelux countries.

By contrast, only 0.6 Blu-ray Discs have been sold for every BD-capable player and console bought in those regions.

So HD DVD is the most popular format then? Well, not necessarily - it all depends on the number of units of each type of playback device that have been sold.

Yes, HD DVD backers may, on average, have purchased 3.8 discs each. But if there are only a hundred of them, that's just 380 discs. If Sony has shipped more than a million PlayStation 3s in Europe, that's 600,000 discs - rather more than 380.

Now which is the most popular format, in terms of disc sales?

Of course, rather more than 100 HD DVD playback devices have been sold in Europe to date, but the it's very telling that the European HD DVD PG won't say how many.

"Unfortunately, we aren’t releasing total sales numbers because we feel that it is early days for both formats compared to DVD," a European HD DVD PG spokeswoman told us.

In short, the organisation doesn't want comparisons being drawn with 'old technology' DVD sales, let alone its rival HD format.

Its unwillingness to release hard data leads us to believe that right now the vast majority of European consumers are not interested in HD DVD. They're probably not interested in Blu-ray either, but so big has been the take up of the PS3, in comparison to HD DVD, that it's building momentum. The upcoming cheap, 40GB PS3 will only drive this trend harder.

Register Hardware is bi-partisan - we can see advantages and failings in both formats. But if the European HD DVD Promotional Group really is confident its format will be successful, it should have the courage to come clean on the numbers. That it doesn't, speaks volumes.

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