Sony’s real challenge

I was just able to articulate in my head why Sony faces such a big challenge in selling a $600 PlayStation 3.

With such a high price, people are going to want to see games with graphics far better than any we’ve ever seen before. Why else would you pay so much for a video game system? People understand that a gaming computer or console gets more expensive with more video RAM, or with a better (more expensive) video card, or with a better (more expensive) graphics chip (in this case, the Cell chip). That’s why the $399 Xbox 360 didn’t cause much consternation — people were willing to pay more for a big leap in graphics.

But by most accounts the PS3 graphics won’t be drastically better than the 360. Maybe second-generation PS3 games will look a lot better, and if the Final Fantasy XIII trailer reflects actual gameplay that seems possible. But at least at first, the PS3 games probably won’t look so much better that people think “ah, that’s why I paid $600.”

People won’t think that because they’re not paying $600 for movie-quality graphics. They’re paying $300 or $350 for graphics that might be a bit better than Xbox 360’s, and $250-$300 for a Blu-ray player. That’s something video game buyers haven’t had to contemplate before.

It’s one thing to say, “Ok, we’re charging you a lot but you’re going to get the greatest gaming system you’ve ever seen, with graphics as good as a Pixar movie.” It’s something else to say, “Ok, we’re charging you a lot for a possibly top-of-the-line gaming system and an expensive piece of non-gaming equipment that you may or may not care about.”

— May 10, 2006

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