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PlayStation 3 price tag won't hurt sales

Column Mommy and daddy will foot the bill
Wed Aug 03 2005, 13:09
WHEN I bought my PlayStation 2, it was not cheap. It cost the best part of £150 and while not achingly expensive it was not a bargain either. The only thing you could say about the price was that it was no surprise. The Web had been filled with a gazillion articles speculating on how much it would cost for more than a year. In the end, the price was nailed down long before the launch and by the time it arrived, people were ready to stump up the readies. But, did the price really matter? In the end, no. If it had cost £50 more it still wouldn't have mattered.

The Web has been ablaze in the past week with dire warnings that the new PS3 will be more expensive than even the highest estimates. In June, Merrill Lynch estimated that the cost to produce a single PS3 would be a shade under $500. alt='plaze'Considering that the Xbox 360 is expected will be priced at around $299, it was felt that even a $399 price tag on the PS3 meant Sony taking a $1bn hit on hardware costs alone in the first year. That was June. In the past few days Sony head honcho, Ken Kutaragi has warned that the PS3 will not be a cheap console. Hmm, we knew that already didn't we? No, because what Ken really means is that all previous bets are off and that the $100 price gap with the Xbox 360 may widen. Realistically, this could push the purchase price of the PS3 to $450.

What you are being told is that if you want a console that is 35 times more powerful than the PS2 and comes with Blu-Ray support and HDTV output as standard, expect to pay that bit more. Quite a bit a more but it just won't matter in the end. A quick glance at the astronomical world sales of the Playstation 2 in its various silver and anorexic guises shows that user hysteria swept away all monetary concerns.

Like any decent gadget, the price becomes secondary to the obsession. Look at the iPod. Not cheap. In fact, quite steep. Some would say, reassuringly so. Since I've not fallen under that particular spell I can't really calculate the "obsession-versus-cost-divided-by-pleasure" equation. Again, check those silly sales numbers for evidence that desire outweighs cost.

In my time, I have been known to obsess and purchase gadgets with haste. Take DVD players. By the time DVD players arrived to the mainstream market I had been salivating non-stop for about two years. With a spring in my step and a gleam in my eye I was off to Tottenham Court Rd. I was all ready to fork out £800 for 'the next big thing' until my loving wife slapped me like a salmon and confiscated my piggy bank.

As a movie buff, the whole idea of image quality double that of VHS tapes was like an answer to a fervent prayer. I was running into serious 'snowy-vision' problems when viewing my favourite tapes and was getting tired of replacing movies that the VCR ate. DVDs looked like CDs but came chock full of extra features and the ability to skip instantly past movie trailers and piracy warnings. What was not to like? It was like Class A drugs to Pete Doherty. At the time of purchase, I had read and collated every DVD player review from magazines and the Web and had narrowed it down to a Philips model. By the time I was allowed access to my own money again, my first DVD player cost £450. If I had waited three months I could have had it for £350 and just six months later, they were lots of players for £250. So what? If I had to wait another second I would have exploded. DVDs revolutionised my movie-watching experience. I never watched another video again, if you discount the kids' Barney and Jungle Book tapes.

When the PS3 arrives it will be - by all accounts - technically superior to the Xbox 360. Sony wants this one to last 10 years - twice that of the PS2 - so expect it to be packing everything but the kitchen sink. Sure, the Xbox 360 will take some marketshare thanks to it's 3-4 month head start but as a PS2 user that knows lots of other PS2 users, the PS3 will be an essential purchase. I mean, you're only going to be buying one over the course of a decade. At worst, that's around £25-a-year for one of the most eagerly anticipated electronic devices on the planet. So, when people have an online spasm over the projected cost of the PS3, remember that obsessions have no price limit and kids have no patience. They'll be using every suck-up and emotional blackmail technique to ensure Mommy and Daddy and Step Mommy and Step Daddy have their chequebooks at the ready. After all, it worked for the PS2. µ


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