Gossip doing the rounds amongst Californian developers seeks to peg the price of Sony's looming PlayStation 3, with the figure of $499 being bandied around quite actively in the last few days.
According to several sources, publisher-owned developers taking receipt of updated development kits have been briefed that the pricepoint is final. However, there are a few inconsistencies and therefore this news should be filed in your brain as grounded speculation, not confirmation.
The first is that not all the developers we spoke to had heard of the price, though some were adamant that SCEA had told them the price was final. The second is differing sources within SCEA purportedly offering the information to developers, explicit details of which we cannot elaborate upon for reasons of confidentiality.
Given the market has been set by Microsoft at $399 for a premium version (read complete), it is thought likely that Sony will have no trouble at all shifting its PlayStation 3 for a shade under $500, which in real-terms is still far less than UK gamers were asked to pay for a Sega Saturn at launch... The PlayStation 3 has been successfully positioned as a more powerful machine than that offered by the Redmond software house and therefore its perceived value should carry it through.
It's also worth bearing in mind that SCE has, from the outset, prepared consumers for console pricepoint that traditionally has thought unworkable. Speaking to assembled press in Tokyo last June,
PlayStation development lead Ken Kutaragi stated, “I'm not going to reveal its price today. I'm going to only say that it'll be expensive,” the second expectation-setting comments within weeks.
Behind Sony's planning will be the reaction of its shareholders to the loss they must absorb as the PlayStation 3 fledges. As we reported in December
, estimates put SCE in a $1 billion hole in the first year the PlayStation 3 goes on sale. From the article:
...these losses would normally be absorbed with ease by Sony as it has previously entered markets lacking any serious competition. This time however, it will put a new machine on sale, its most expensive to date, to consumers who, in the West, have shown eager acceptance of Microsoft's Xbox 360 and a worldwide audience showing interest in Nintendo's budget innovation machine. Analysts warn that should Microsoft cut the price of Xbox 360 when Sony launches, the entire project could backfire. Should consumers be tempted with a next-generation console at a budget price, complete with a significant library of high-quality software and the option to augment this with something new, as offered by Nintendo, Sony might find its space under televisions around the world, its own for more than a decade, has been usurped.
Of course, there is an outside chance that the PlayStation 3 will bring about the downfall of SCE, or at least relegate it to second place. Should production routines prove problematic, demand will massively outstrip supply, even at $499 per unit. This will leave publishers of launch and early life cycle software badly burned as it offered its most expensive (to develop) software to date to a non-existent audience, a problem which blighted firms backing Xbox 360 from day one.
This would lend more momentum to Xbox 360 development, with Nintendo happily mopping up the scraps from the giants' tables, offering publishers the cheapest development option and consumers an intriguing machine likely to launch at $150.