Next to Sony’s announcement that they would not be including digital rights management in their Playstation 4 plans the $400 price tag was probably the biggest applause line. So the idea that this price point could be a mistake probably seems patently absurd. We aren’t biased towards one console or another, but looking at the sales of both consoles, with Ebay, Gamestop and Amazon all shutting down pre-orders for both systems, you have to wonder if Sony is wondering the same thing we are.
Hold on a minute though, sometimes it helps to step outside of ourselves and take a look at the bigger picture. It’s true that the $600 debut of Playstation 3 was quite the stumbling block for the system early on, but a number of things have changed. The Playstation 2 generation was of a normal length while the current generation has been abnormally long. We know that the public is champing at the bit to get their hands on new console hardware and that means a willingness on the part of consumers to pay the entry fee. Secondly, when you take seven years of inflation into account a $500 tag on the Playstation 4 really wouldn’t be that bad. “But we get the more powerful system for less money,” you say. True, but that may only be good for Sony fans in the short run.
We know that originally Sony had considered charging $500 for the system while including the camera, not unlike the built in Kinect situation for Xbox One. Instead the camera will be sold separately for $60, and I think this raises some interesting considerations. If the camera is worth $60 then the original plan would have netted an extra $40 for Sony per console. In stark contrast to Nintendo and Microsoft, Sony has a lot of first party studios they need to fund in order to keep those unparalleled exclusives coming (at least sixteen studios last time I checked). I mean we do want to see games like The Last Guardian come to light at some point don’t we?
There is also the Playstation Network to account for – sure we have to pay for PS Plus to play online now but the service still has a lot of expanding to do to deliver the promises Sony has made and a little extra investment never hurt anybody. Having that money available right on launch could mean the console hitting its stride a bit faster and so opening a wider consumer base.
There is the argument that of course the Playstation 4 will sell more consoles for $400 but I’m not so certain this is true. Aside from the public’s general appetite for a new generation, we have some recent indications that the Xbox One isn’t having many problems with the $500 price point. Even after a lot of bad press it looks like all the Xbox One pre-orders are being filled. This is so even though industry analyst Colin Sebastian believes the Xbox One will have two to three times as many units available than Playstation 4 this fall. Now I don’t want to be naïve here, I’m well aware that the truth surrounding product availability doesn’t always line up with what corporations tell people, but we can only work with the evidence we have. Whether Sony or Microsoft plans to hold back is up for debate.
We also have the camera issue to address. Sony definitely wants you interested in their camera, the console will even come with The Playroom augmented reality title to pique your interest. That camera will probably be useful for all the new social bells and whistles as well, possibly enough that if it were part of the package it would help the overall word of mouth marketing campaign. I must admit I am behind the times when it comes to cameras and social functions, I simply don’t care. I don’t want them, don’t need them, I can’t figure out why anybody would. And yet, there they are. They seem to hypnotize family and casual gamers so I don’t want to underestimate this stuff.
Playstation 3 started the last generation out in a rocky position and with a high price, but that price came down and it eventually outsold the Xbox 360 despite coming out a year later. $500 and a lot of gamer rage hasn’t slowed Microsoft down much this time around. As great as a $400 price is for gamers, the Playstation 4’s overall full-generation experience could conceivably be better faster if it was to launch at the same price as Xbox One in my opinion. Just so we’re clear though, I don’t want to spend $500 on a console any more than you do. The $400 price point is good for us, but maybe not so much for Sony following the Xbox One’s sale success.
What do you think, would you have been put off of the Playstation 4 if it was to debut at the same cost as the Xbox One? Would that camera have made a difference whether present or not? Would you be willing to sacrifice the extra money for your console to “hit its stride” faster? Let us know in the comments below, and again, we aren’t trying to bash Sony or Microsoft by any means.