In an age where small change can get you a compelling distraction, Sony’s biggest challenge with the PlayStation Vita is convincing people that £40 is a reasonable price for a handheld game. So far it’s tackled the problem by using a wide range of price tags for its selection of launch titles, spanning £4.79 right through to £44.99.
But despite the (surprisingly) low price-points of some titles, Sony’s drawn criticism for the upper end of its pricing scale. Worldwide Studios president, Shuhei Yoshida, has defended the pricing of titles such as Uncharted: Golden Abyss however, suggesting that gamers will be willing to pay more for meatier titles.
He told VentureBeat:
We have a theory that if we create really compelling, engaging experiences that you can spend hours with, you'll see the value of spending 40 dollars against one dollar.
The good thing about $1 games is that people are not spending too much money on them. If you buy 40 of those, you might be spending $40, but still...
Gamers love all kinds of games. I totally understand people who like games like Angry Birds, but if you're a gamer, you're also interested in trying different kinds of experiences, bigger games.
Despite that, Yoshida implored publishers to think very carefully about how much they charge for their PS Vita titles:
I can see, looking at the games in game stores, when you see games that you feel you can find on the iPod or iPad for five dollars, why should you spend 40 dollars? So software publishers will really have to think hard when they approach pricing their software. Is this the experience that will compel people to spend that much? Or is this something they should provide for more accessible prices, so that people will try it?
Yoshida reiterated that variable pricing is the best solution for handheld titles in 2012:
For the past consoles, we had a pretty rigid price range we kept to. This is a full-price game, $60, this is a Greatest Hits, $30. Like that.
But for PS Vita, you'll see games that sell for $50, $40, $30. And on the digital, $45, $35, $23, $15, $10 and $5. A very wide variety of pricing. We're looking at each title and the value and scope of the content, and trying to match people's value perception with the pricing.
It seems like a sound strategy, but we’re unsure whether that top tier price point is going to fly beyond launch.