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Summary:

Not to get overly political, but Sony Computer Entertainment’s management is starting to remind me of the Bush administration. Despite constant dire warnings from so many experts (including an editor with the official Playstation magazine) that the PS3 is careening toward a disastrous launch, the company […]

Not to get overly political, but Sony Computer Entertainment’s management is starting to remind me of the Bush administration. Despite constant dire warnings from so many experts (including an editor with the official Playstation magazine) that the PS3 is careening toward a disastrous launch, the company seems doggedly hellbent on staying the course, dismissing the resourcefulness of the competition, and in the face of mounting criticism, even going so far as to hire writers to post sunny good news about the PS3 on a “semi official” blog.

You keep hoping that Kaz Hirai will suddenly show up on a podium and announce a drastic rethinking of PS3’s pricing, or release schedule, or its online/download services, or its exclusive game line-up, something, anything, but the moment never comes. If the chart above linked to below doesn’t break through their cocoon of optimism, nothing will.

Created by jvm of Curmudgeon Gamer, it’s a comprehensive listing of videogame consoles released over the last 30 years, arranged by date and graphed according to their absolute price (cost on date of release), and relative price (current cost adjusted for inflation).

See the chart posted here. Even at a quick glance, it’s easy to draw some conclusions: the consoles that tend to succeed most in recent years are priced within the $225-350 range, in today’s numbers, while some of the biggest disasters (3DO, CD-i) are priced two or three times that.

At between $500 or $600, the Playstation 3 skews toward the danger zone, and has a price point comparable to the fairly disastrous Sega Saturn of 1995. (And by today’s dollars, it’s $150-250 more than the Playstation 2, released back in the day when it seemed Sony could do no wrong.) Priced at about $250, the Nintendo Wii seems best situated in the chart’s retail sweet spot.

Kudos to Curmudgeon Gamer for crunching the numbers. Maybe they’re too late in coming for Sony’s good, but they’re something. Then again, maybe Playstation has such powerful brand loyalty, millions of gamers will miraculously rise up next week to acclaim the PS3, despite the high cost. But from where I’m sitting, that’s about as likely as 150,000 troops being enough to secure the peace in a Middle Eastern country which… well, in a post-election spirit of national reconciliation, I’ll leave it at that.

Hat tip: Anthony J. Siino III.

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  1. How exactly does that graph help? It doesn’t even indicate the sales figures that each console accumulated. I’m sure the only use Sony would find for this is that, despite both the Playstation and the Playstation 2 being priced more than its competitors, it still kicked their sorry asses.

  2. Not sure how this graph really shows much of anything at all.

    And the political stuff is really not wanted. If I wanted little jabs at various politicians I’d go read a political blog.

  3. Everyone skims at launch. The more people want what you have, the more opportunity to skim. The price will come down sharply in a few months where it will stabilize for a long time before edging lower slowly as it ages.

    It’s not like an election (or an invasion) where the monkey in the White House predicted victory and was totally humiliated. (Greetings John C.) :-)

    The launch may or may not be “successful,” but that may not be relevant to the long-term success of the product. Think of opening week numbers for a movie. Great for bragging rights, not necessarily indicative of the ultimate profitability of the venture.

  4. You don’t really need that graph or this blog post to see how this generation of consoles will pan out for Sony. Reading about the company’s impending doom is SO tired. It will obviously lose market share to Microsoft and Nintendo. In terms of PS3 and Xbox 360, PS3 will be the sales leader this gen. The more interesting question is if the Wii will outsell them all since it’s at a cheaper price point and goes after a different/broader market.

  5. If you notice, almost all of the consoles that were priced in that upper half were commerically failures, even though they were state of the art and highly desirable at the time.

    The exception being only those first few consoles that came out in the early years of electronic gaming.

  6. Wagner,

    Looks like you pushed a lot of buttons with this post.

    I do agree that Sony made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I believe they would still dominate the next gen gaming market. The game lineup for next year is absolutely amazing, their hardware is superior, they have a strong loyal customer base, and they seem to have a well thought out plan for taking over the living room. I do not see them succeeding this holiday season but in the long run, their system is better positioned to win the market.

  7. Outside of Nintendo, Sony and a few other established console makers, the 3DOs of the time had fringe technology with little back end support. Gaming was considered niche (by appearance, not by dollars) and had never been given the general audience most consoles see today. Sony delivered a ‘mature’ gaming platform which broke the kid friendly stigma Game Industries wore. The PS3, roughly the price of 2 iPods, includes a laundry list of next-gen technology, which today’s consumers think is valuable in comparison to just being an evolved walkman with video.

    If you want a political analogy, Nintendo (The Right) will always play towards its base, the kid-safe family friendly charm we expect. Microsoft (The Center), a reactionary player in the console wars, will stay moderate to appease the gamer who’s needs can be easily met. Sony (The Left) will always develop future pushing consumer technology, weather we need it or not, because thats their business.

    Maybe everyone should just thank Steve Jobs for making consumers understand the concept of ‘Technology done well’. Er, thanks…Steve!?

  8. Wagner James Au Friday, November 10, 2006

    Heh, interesting counter-analogy!

  9. Wagner,

    What are your thoughts on comparing the price of consoles in an age where the console hardware you put in your house isn’t the only thing you might be paying for? To use a specific example, what are your thoughts about the argument that an Xbox + Xbox Live for 2 years (which is a conservative estimate of a console’s lifetime) costs more than the PS3 with its online service over the same time period? Of course, the more liberal you are with the estimate of a console’s lifetime, the more expensive an Xbox is than a PS3, using this line of logic. Thoughts?

  10. I’m glad someone brought the iPod into the discussion. Whenever someone talks about escalating console prices, they rarely bring up the costs of other consumer electronics. Sure they bring up inflation, but that’s only part of the picture. Compare the cost of an 80GB iPod to the PS3–it’s $350 to $600. Now if you compare the cost of one of the “failed” expensive consoles of the past to a walkman of the same era, there’s a much greater disparity in price.

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