Just in case you aren't the type to browse through your Sunday newspaper retailer circulars, Blu-ray is here. Both Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and Circuit City (NYSE:CC) are now selling the first Blu-ray players to hit the market. Squeezing 50 gigs of storage onto a single optical disc, the capacity is superior to HD-DVD's 30 gigabytes, and carries 10 times the data of conventional DVDs. In theory, that means a crisper picture, sterling sound, and more room for bonus features.

A lot is riding on the migration to high-definition DVD, but early adopters will need to open their billfolds wide. After a series of delays, Best Buy and Circuit City are pricing the first wave of players at $999.

The high-def home video niche is just starting to feel its way through the birthing process. Don't drop your Best Buy circular into the recycle bin without noting how the $999 player itself was labeled as a "Blue-ray" player instead of Blu-ray. That sort of typographical blunder will be telltale if the format flops, or hilarious if it's a runaway hit.

Sony (NYSE:SNE) led the consortium of major companies championing the Blu-ray platform. Yes, Sony also introduced the Betamax format, which lost badly to VHS videocassettes, but it has friends in high places this time around. Blu-ray and Toshiba's rival HD-DVD format have both garnered healthy movie-studio support, but Blu-ray was also quick to get PC makers like Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) on its side.

Because Sony is also the maker of the popular PlayStation video game console, it's including Blu-ray playback functionality in its next-generation system. That may be reason alone to delay forking over a grand or more for a Blu-ray player today, since you can get a PlayStation 3 for an estimated $600 in the fall. Even if consumers scoff at the high prices for stand-alone Blu-ray players, the PlayStation's popularity in the video game space assures Sony an installed base of millions of Blu-ray capable homes over the holidays.

As expected, the first Blu-ray films to hit the market this month are priced $5 to $10 higher than the same titles on DVD. Blu-ray's capacity allows lots of extra features, but at this point, it's more likely that studios are just trying to recoup their investment from the format's currently limited audience.

So keep watching. Just rethink your priorities before you pay up for a player that will likely drop precipitously in price, the way high-def television sets have in recent years.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz probably overpaid for his traditional DVD player. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. T he Fool has a disclosure policy. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.