We've been keeping an eye on prices for Blu-ray players and it appears that a handful of budget-brand models are starting to crack the $150 barrier. The other day Woot.com had the Memorex MVBD2510 player at $139.99 for a one-day sale and now TheNerds.net is selling it for $146.99 (shipping included) and Buy.com has it at $149.99. That's on top of both the Samsung BD-P1500 and the Sony BDP-S300 slipping in and out of sub-$200 territory at Amazon and other outlets.
While $150 isn't bad, I think we're going to see $99 fairly soon, with a couple of stops at $129.99. As we found out with HD-DVD players, $99 really is a magic price point, though it is worth pointing out that these budget Blu-ray players are only profile 1.1, while the $99 HD DVD players were fully up to spec and allowed for firmware upgrades via Ethernet (the cheap Blu-ray players can't be updated and sometimes simply can't play certain movies). Profile 1.1 players aren't BD-Live enabled, which means you won't be able to access certain interactive features--for better or worse.
BD-Live issues aside, I'm betting we'll see $99 for a Blu-ray player inside of four months, if not sooner, the way the economy is going. We can debate exactly when it will happen (feel free to comment), but in the near future the initiation fee for entering Club Blu-ray will be relatively negligible--or at least not a serious stumbling block.
That said, the bigger problem is prices for Blu-ray movies compared to DVDs. For example, if you take a look at Wall-E, which currently sits atop Amazon's Blu-ray bestseller list, it costs $24.95 versus $14.99 for the DVD. Granted, the Blu-ray version comes with three discs (there's a two-disc version for 50 cents less, but why bother?) and the DVD is only a single disc. The fact is the majority of blue-chip Blu-ray titles cost around $25, with some, like Iron Man, coming in at $20. (It's also worth noting that you don't get the free shipping on Amazon on anything less than $25, which makes you understand the price has been set where it is for a reason).
I realize that manufacturers, retail outlets, and studios want to preserve margins as long as they can and they've made an effort to present Blu-ray as a premium format that deserves to be marked up. But asking people to pay 50-75 percent extra when everybody's cutting back already is going to crimp sales of both Discs and players.
The smart people are opting to rent rather than buy (Netflix charges an extra buck for Blu-ray rentals, but it's still a good deal, especially when you consider you get its free movie streaming service thrown in). That said, I know folks who say they'll only consider switching to Blu-ray when players are $99 and the price gap between DVD and Blu-ray movies is minimal. Of course, others will never switch, preferring instead to download zero-cost illegal pirated flicks or stream legal free content from Hulu, Netflix, and others.
What do you guys think? At what point is Blu-ray really going to take off (if ever)? Is one of these stripped-down, cheap players worth buying? And are Discs too expensive?