Blu-Ray discs will go on sale in China for the first time today – officially that is.

While it’s been possible to buy dubious pirated version of the high-def format for some time, today marks the start of what is expected to be a major push by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment into the vast Chinese market.

Discs will be priced in the region of RMB200 (USD $30) and will be available online and in-store.

The initial movie offering isn’t extensive – just 30 titles will be available – including Hancock, the recent Spiderman movies and classics including Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

To coincide with the introduction of the discs, Sony is also launching its BDP-S350 Blu-ray player into the Chinese market.

It’s an environment where rampant piracy of high-definition discs, among other things, is already an issue.

Authorities in China recently seized over 800 illegally pirated Blu-ray titles. The discs contained movies ripped from Blu-ray to DVD using AVCHD compression.

The fakes, seized in Shenzhen, were packaged in realistic-looking Blu-ray boxes, complete with authenticating holograms.

The bust has highlighted flaws in the robust copy-protection that Blu-ray is supposed to have, although the Motion Picture Association International said this was the first ever seizure of this type of disc.

Sony Pictures is the first Hollywood studios to release films on the high definition format in China but both Warner Brothers and Disney are in talks with local replicators and distributors in order to release their Blu-ray titles in the country as well.

But pirates aren’t the only opposition Blu-ray is likely to face.

Production of China’s self-developed high-definition optical disc format – China Blue High-definition Disc (CBHD) – is expected to begin production before the end of the year.

Shanghai United Optical Disc has completed its first production line for the modified version of the Toshiba-supported HD DVD format that lost out to Blu-ray.

But with no Hollywood studios on board, it faces an uphill battle with (at least) three studios now preparing Blu-ray releases in China.

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