At E3 2005 Microsoft hinted at the possibility of the Xbox360 moving into high definition storage but up until now they have been fairly quiet on their plans. While it was very obvious to everyone that in order to compete with the up and coming Playstation 3 and its Blu-Ray integration, Microsoft would need to come to the party with its own format, the announcement by Bill Gates at CES 2006 for a stand alone HD-DVD peripheral for Xbox360 comes as no surprise. Since they have voiced their support for the HD-DVD format in the past we were just waiting for a formal announcement.
What does this mean for the average gamer? Not a hell of a lot, unfortunately. It seems fairly unlikely that any games will be released in HD-DVD format so the quality of the games may not necessarily be influenced by the availability of the peripheral. Not everyone will buy one and as such support from game developers will probably be rather limited, at least at first. If Microsoft eventually integrates the HD-DVD drive into the 360 console then perhaps the level of support may change but for now the HD-DVD peripheral will mainly be used to watch HD-DVD movies as they become available. Warner Bros recently announced it will be releasing a large number of HD-DVD titles in 2006 the most impressive of which will Superman Returns late in the year.
This format war will only become nastier as time goes on and who will come out on top is yet to be seen but it makes for changing times and with Microsoft throwing its hat into the ring, things just got interesting.