Where’s the Avatar 3D Blu-ray?!

If I were a geek or a nerd (and I’m both, but not yet a gleek), I would be selling my blood and other bodily fluids, cashing in every bit of loose change around the house and maxing out my weary credit cards to get myself a 3D HDTV and a 3D Blu-ray player so I could drool over Avatar at home on 3D Blu-ray. And I’ll bet millions of other blue-painted geeks and nerds would be tramping down to Best Buy and other big box retailers to do the same.

One problem. There’s no 3D Blu-ray version of Avatar. Why? Two words: Fox, greed.

Panasonic has been flaunting its relationship with James Cameron for nearly two years. At the 2009 and 2010 CES, Panasonic played video of Cameron extolling the virtues of 3D and how he valued his relationship with the company. Observers would have bet their farms (okay, I would have bet my farm, if I owned one) that Panasonic would start selling its 3D Blu-ray and 3D HDTVs to coincide with the home video release of the 3D Blu-ray of Avatar.

But sans a 3D Blu-ray Avatar, I’m guessing no one will sell as many 3D HDTVs or 3D Blu-ray decks this year as they could have.

It’s hard to fault Fox Home Video for holding back a 3D version of Avatar. The 2D version sold 6.7 million units in its first four days of release, 2.7 million on Blu-ray, both records, and both versions remain among the top five sellers six months after its April 22 release. And Fox seems quite satisfied with this bounteously blue status quo. In fact, Fox will dip into geek wallets a second time when it releases a special edition DVD and Blu-ray this November. The growing infamous home video third dip, a 3D version, hasn’t even been scheduled and likely won’t be out until sometime next year.

But this long-term thinking is paradoxically short-sighted. Avatar is the 3D killer hardware app. Instead, by waiting until 2011 for a 3D Blu-ray Avatar, Fox pushes back 3D Blu-ray sales potential not only for themselves but other suddenly 3D-happy studios and foe 3D hardware makers, and leaves us Na’vi lovers disconnected from the 3D Tree of Souls. Well done, Mr. Murdoch!

It’s clear Panasonic didn’t quite have the unobtanium, metaphorically speaking, to get Fox to release a 3D version of Avatar to support the 3D hardware launch. One reason I’ve heard for Fox’s delay is that 3D authoring tools aren’t up to snuff. I find that hard to believe. First, earlier this year Cameron was quoted as saying he believed a 3D Blu-ray version would be out in the fall. He must have felt it was totally doable, but was quickly contradicted by the suits at Fox. Second, it’s hard to believe Cameron and crew are pickier than Pixar, which already has released <i>Up</i> on 3D Blu-ray.

More likely, Fox is being conservative (what a shock), waiting for a critical mass of 3D HDTVs and 3D Blu-ray players to be sold in order to ensure the 3D Avatar Blu-ray makes as big a noise as the 2D versions, or at least doesn’t land with a dull sales thud. But this creates the old chicken-egg game of chicken that hardware makers and content providers have been playing since the VCR first came out in 1976. You put out hardware first. No, you put out content first. Hardware first. Content first. Wabbit season. Duck season.

In the meantime, geeks and nerds like us will be blue until we can get Na’vi blue Blu-ray in 3D next year.

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