Tuesday, May 09, 2006

PS3 Price and Launch Date

Well, here you go, straight from Joystiq's coverage of the Sony Press Conference.
Sony just announced PS3 launch details as follows from the conference floor: "Today we're pleased to announce the global PS3 launch details. We will make PS3 available via a two-configuration plan. One with a 60GB HD. And the other with a 20GB hard drive. Japan's date: Nov. 11. In Japan 59,800 Yen. The 60GB PS3 will have an open price which retailers will set. In North America [to launch Nov 17]: 20GB for $499, 60GB for $599. Europe has 20GB for 499 Euro, 60GB for 599 Euro. 2 million to ship worldwide during the launch window. 4 million by end of calendar year 2006. By March 31, 2007 they'll have shipped 6 million worldwide.

That's an interesting scenario. A hundred bucks delta. Four million units shipped by year's end.

I think that's going to a tough sell in the U.S. particularly if Microsoft manages the next six months properly. And I still expect some features to get removed--they're losing a fortune at that price.

And what do we get for our extra $100 investment? My first guess is :dick. Clearly, that could turn out to be totally wrong, but Sony has butchered the last six months in every way. If that's a sign of internal dissension (it almost always is), then Sony may be in tremenous disarray right now. And don't forget that Sony's never done a near-simultaneous launch.

A snapshot of the future: a messy launch, with few consoles available (far fewer than even the 360 launch), a handful of games, one or two or which might be AAA titles, and not much else. With the threat of a multi-month delay always near the surface.

There was one interesting note, though: the redesigned controller has a tilt sensor. That has many, many possibilities.

One very good thing about all this, though: Competition. We will see Sony and Microsoft going crazy to make impossibly good games that they can sell at lower an lower prices.

[Update]: 1Up.com announces that a boatload of features are missing from the $499 version. Here's the list:
As it turns out, a little examining of Sony's announcement press release reveals the $499 model will lack support for Memory Sticks, SD and Compact Flash cards, no built-in Wi-Fi and will surprisingly have the HDMI output removed (necessary for achieving the much bragged about 1080p screen resolution).

That is a big hit to the feature set, particularly the HDMI output removal. So Sony is lauding the Blu-Ray as what distinguishes this console from the 360, but they're going to offer a crippled version of the console that won't even support 1080p playback for Blu-Ray? And to actually GET that HDMI capability we have to pay $599?

Baffling. This is what we've seen from Sony for months--incoherence.

$599 too much for mass market acceptance. Period. $499 would have been borderline for the full-featured console, but $499 for a console with a list of missing features--no go. Sony can frame it any way they want to, but there is no way there will be the same demand in the U.S. for the PS3 at $599 that there was for the Xbox 360 at $399. No way.

Here's Sony's biggest problem at that price: it's called the PS3. The PS2 was a game machine, so in consumer's minds, this is the next-generation game machine. I don't care how many times Sony says it's going to revolutionize the home as a media player--the name they gave it indicates that it's a game machine. That's a huge marketing mistake. They should have called it something else, or called it the PS3 plus given it some spiffy nickname. They had to do something to depart from the lineage, and they didn't.

You might think that sounds ridiculous. We all know the difference, right? Yes--we do. But a huge number of parents don't, and they're not going to slap down $500 (or $600) dollars for a game machine this Christmas.

Will it be a disaster? No, not right away. Sony will limit supply so severely that they can make crazy claims about demand outstripping supply. But market penetration in the U.S. is going to happen much more slowly than it did with the PS2, and Microsoft can offer a very tempting alternative for developers.

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