A slightly arcane question that I think is relevant to a chapter of the history of game consoles whose dynamics I'm trying to understand.

In the mid-nineties, several companies were developing optical disks with enough capacity for movies. The default outcome would've been a format war, but instead they formed an alliance called the DVD Consortium, subsequently renamed to the DVD Forum, where they would all pool their patents, agree on a format, and each get a percentage of royalties.

The royalties were significant. How much were they, in dollars per unit? I would be interested in knowing that, and have not been able to find a figure, but at any rate, the sum was enough to deter Microsoft and Nintendo from including DVD movie capability out of the box in the Xbox and Wii, despite these machines physically containing DVD drives.

Sony did include DVD movie capability out of the box in the PlayStation 2. How many people made their sixth generation console purchase decision because of this? Hard to say, but anecdotally, it was significant. In the end, the PS2 became the most successful console of all time, 155 million units sold.

Why did Sony make a different decision to Microsoft and Nintendo? One obvious possibility is that being a founding member of the DVD Forum, they were entitled to a percentage of the royalties, which meant they would get some of their own money back, essentially having a discount on DVD movie player capability, making it cheaper for them to provide.

But how much of a discount? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DVD_Forum says ten companies founded the organization, then promptly lists twelve (including Sony). If we take the smaller number, and assume royalties were divided equally, that would give Sony a 10% discount, which seems unlikely to be enough to base the decision on.

Did they actually get a larger percentage? Or did they make the decision to include DVD movie player capability out of the box in the PS2 – a highly consequential decision, that would contribute to the most successful game console of all time – for some other reason?

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    Not directly familiar with the DVD crowd, but one I have some passing familiarity with had a complicated way to calculate the shares. This mostly had to do with how many patents an entity provided as well as how many were actually used once the standard was set. No clue on DVDs though.
    – Jon Custer
    Jan 8 at 20:50
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    Interestingly, it didn't take long for a format war to erupt, around recordable and writeable DVDs. Jan 9 at 8:51
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    Some of the media companies also owned movie studios and so profited from the sale of DVD movies as well. Sony bought Columbia in 1989. Jan 9 at 10:55
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    AFAIR, the issue around DVD-Video playback isn’t just the DVD Forum royalties, but also the MPEG royalties. Jan 9 at 12:16
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    @JörgWMittag: Interestingly, there are both hardware and software differences between DVD-R and DVD+R. The hardware-level differences are only relevant to the process of writing disks, but differences in what kinds of mid-disk updates could be performed caused the two formats to handle "appendable" media differently.
    – supercat
    Jan 11 at 22:47

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