Wal-mart has officially entered the movie download game. Until now, the retail company had been sitting on the sidelines -- not without its influence, of course -- but apparently it isn't happy simply controlling the download industry, specifically iTunes' share, by way of bullying tactics. Starting today, customers can purchase a download of Superman Returnsfor as little as $1.97. There's a catch, however: to get the download, you have to first purchase the DVD of the same film. The DVD comes with a sticker, which features on it a code that you enter onto a special website. You then have the option of paying $1.97 for a copy for your iPod, Microsoft Zune, or other portable device; $2.97 for a copy for your laptop or desktop computer; or $3.97 for a copy that can be played on any type of player, portable or computer. Although it seems silly to have to buy the movie in order to buy another copy of the movie, at Wal-Mart's online price of $14.87 for the DVD ($5 less than Amazon and $1 less than Best Buy online), the company really knows what it is doing.
But, does this make Wal-Mart right? Whatever your opinions on the company, there is no denying that this idea is better than the plan to block studios from going to iTunes or the suggestion that Wal-Mart should get a percentage of iTunes movie sales. It may be a sneaky move, but it isn't an altogether perfect option for customers wanting movie downloads -- particularly those who want just the download -- and at least it is a competitive rather than bullying move.
Wal-Mart will be offering other DVD/download combos in the following months, and states that the idea is in a testing phase. As far as the company's interest in download-to-burn kiosks goes, I'm guessing that option has been abandoned.