Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console has been out for several months and has a number of solid games for the console and more are on the way. The Xbox Live service is also the best online experience for a game console and Xbox Live Arcade has opened up consoles to new game possibilities. Nintendo’s Wii console (despite perhaps the worst name for a console in history) looks to be a popular success when it comes out this fall, thanks to its low price (at least $250 if not lower) and its emphasis on some different gameplay thanks to its motion sensing controller.
However, Sony’s upcoming Playstation 3 console has generated, without a doubt, the most talk and the most debate of any of the three next-gen consoles this year. It hasn’t always been for good reasons, though. Ever since Sony’s E3 press conference last May, there have been some serious questions about the console and some game developers and analysts have openly said they don’t think the PS3 will be as successful sales wise as the Xbox 360 and the Wii. In this editorial we will look at the pros and cons that we know of for the PS3, using quotes from Sony PlayStation execs that they have made over the last two months or so following E3 as our guide. Please be aware that Sony has not yet revealed everything about their new console (including specific particulars for their online game service) so our views about the console can and most likely will change in the months leading up to the release of the PS3 in the US on November 17.
Issue 1: Price
The price of the PS3 has been the center point of the debate over the console ever since May 8 when Sony officially announced that the 20 GB hard drive version of the console will be sold for $499 and the 60 GB hard drive version would be sold for $599. (We will examine the other differences between the two versions of the PS3 later in this article). However you slice it, the price point of the PS3 is more expensive than the Xbox 360 ($399 for the version with the hard drive and $299 for the non hard drive version) and the Wii ($250 and it could be less).
Even with that high price Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi stated just after the E3 press conference that the PS3 was “probably too cheap." In an interview with Japanese media outlet IT Media he is quoted as saying “This is the PS3 price. Expensive, cheap -- we don't want you to think of it in terms of game machines. Because the PS3 is like nothing else. For instance, is it not nonsense to compare the charge for dinner at the company cafeteria with dinner at a fine restaurant? It's a question of what you can do with that game machine. If you can have an amazing experience, we believe price is not a problem.”
Yet others feel the $600 price is indeed too high. The web site Curmudgeon Gamer posted up a graph of all the game consoles released in the US since the 1970’s and clearly showed that the PS3 will have the third highest launch price for a console ever, behind the NeoGeo and the 3D0 (both notorious failures). Sony CEO Howard Stringer recently admitted during a press conference that the “price of the PS3 is high” He also admitted that such a price for the console was a “higher-risk strategy” but defended the console by saying, “'you're paying for potential”. A recent survey of Japanese game developers don’t feel that way, however, with over 90 percent saying they are upset about the high price of the console at launch. Just this past Monday, UbiSoft CEO Yves Guillemot was quoted in a Bloomberg story as saying that Sony must lower their price of the PS3 in 2007 in order to compete with the Xbox 360 and Wii. Another interview at GameDaily with Sega of America exec Scott Steinberg (conducted at E3 last May but only posted last week) said that “Definitely, the [price] is a concern.” Much like Guillemot, Steinberg felt that a price cut for the PS3 will be needed relatively soon after the console’s launch, saying “For a lot of families [the launch price is] too expensive."
The conclusion is pretty simple; the PS3 is going to be pricey. The logical forecast is for the console to most likely sell well when it is first launched to the early adopter crowd but that once that market is finished buying their PS3s the general public will be very wary of picking up a $600 game machine.