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Reaction: PS4 Price Advantage Will Prove Pivotal in the Battle Against Xbox One

Posted by Sammy Barker

Every little helps

While much of the next generation narrative has been pointed purposefully at digital rights management and used games, arguably the biggest discussion thus far has been left untouched like the awful pizza at a Chinese buffet. SCEA executive Jack Tretton may have revelled in revealing the PlayStation 4’s pro-consumer plans during last week’s E3 2013 press conference, but it was group gaffer Andrew House’s almost aggressive declaration of $399 that will be looked upon fondly by the suits that have been haunted by a larger figure for much of the PlayStation 3’s lifespan.

The slide of the presentation itself looked cobbled together; a plain white Powerpoint sheet with a trio of figures penned in Arial Black. But while we don’t subscribe to the opinion that the company decided on the PS4’s price in response to Microsoft’s disclosure – in all likelihood, the platform holder has probably been targeting $399 ever since the system’s inception in architect Mark Cerny’s basement – we do reckon that the Japanese giant saw an opportunity to kick its competitor while it was down.

But in the cold light of the E3 aftermath, what does the disparity between the PS4 and the Xbox One’s pricing actually mean? Well, it’s clear that Sony struck a tuneful chord with consumers, as the manufacturer’s black box of tricks has been outpacing Microsoft’s machine on pretty much every electronics retailer’s website since the conclusion of the company’s press conference. Numbers are harder to come by – we suspect that both consoles are amassing positive pre-order figures – but it’s possible that the Japanese giant’s nose is in front at the moment, if only temporarily.

Of course, there’s a lot more at play than merely price. Software, functionality, and the aforementioned used games policies will all factor into every early adopters’ purchasing decision – but we still reckon that the disparity between the respective system’s launch sums will prove decisive as each platform holder cuts the ribbon on the next generation in around four or five months’ time.

One of the biggest problems that the PS3 faced for large chunks of this generation – and is arguably still haunted by today – is that it released with an inflated figure attached to it, that was largely unjustified by the experiences available at launch. An arrogant Sony attempted to make a song and dance about the CELL and how it would serve up incredible experiences wielding supercharged computational power, but until Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune rocked around in 2007, a lot of that potential remained untapped.

And the console looked like a cumbersome boxer-branded convenience cooker as a result, lingering on store shelves while consumers rushed to the much more attractive green machine wearing a distinctly more palatable price point. The Xbox One won’t quite face the same obscene struggles as the PS3 on pricing alone, but it will find itself up against a cheaper piece of hardware this Christmas with many of the same games in its library.

And that, more than used game policies and exclusive content, could prove to be Sony’s decisive blow. It even ignores the snowballing sentiment that the PS4 is actually more powerful than its costly competitor. If it’s proven that the console’s able to deliver an enhanced experience for a more affordable figure, then that may truly put Microsoft in hot water moving forwards. But, as SCEUK executive Fergal Gara was keen to emphasise earlier in the week, the console war is not done and dusted yet.

While it’s true that the Japanese giant has proven that it’s more nimble than Usain Bolt in recent months, we refuse to believe that its Redmond-based counterpart is going to accept a kick to the teeth without at least attempting to jump to its feet. And how Microsoft inevitably responds could yet have colossal implications on the PS4.

Executives such as Don Mattrick and Phil Spencer have been somewhat dismissive in the wake of last week’s Los Angeles showdown, claiming that the Xbox One “over-delivers on value”. But you can bet that somewhere among the ball ponds, basketball courts, and canteens serving caviar at Microsoft’s E&D headquarters, there are suits having hurried water cooler conversations about the company’s next move.

And the focus of those impromptu meetings may not circle around cost reductions, but subsidised pricing. The manufacturer made no mention of the model during its press conference, but it was a common source of conversation leading up to the unveiling of the Xbox One. Perhaps it hasn’t finalised its plans at this point in time, but an incremental payment system – perhaps tied into the Xbox Live subscription service – could prove a major blow to the PS4.

If Sony can use its affordable advantage to help cultivate a fanbase around the PlayStation Network, its ecosystem, and games, then it could yet exit this generation on top of the Xbox One

The practice may not always benefit the consumer in the long run, but Microsoft has proven in recent weeks that that isn’t its chief source of concern. As such, a headline figure of $299 with a commitment to monthly payments could steal Sony’s thunder, even if it’s unlikely to fly in some parts of the world. And if the Japanese giant's not readily prepared to respond, that could prove a colossal blow to the cost advantage that the firm's spent years attempting to engineer.

Of course, it’s difficult to debate something that hasn’t yet been confirmed, and while it seems likely that Microsoft will dabble in subscription tiers based on the speculation that’s surfaced over the past few months, there’s no reason why the PlayStation maker couldn’t have a similar plan up its sleeve. After all, the platform holder has proven itself uncharacteristically adept over recent weeks.

And assuming that it can continue that – and subsequently keep its nose in front on pricing – the future looks positive for the PS4. History has proven that system’s snowball, and that’s especially true in this online age. If Sony can use its affordable advantage to help cultivate a fanbase around the PlayStation Network, its ecosystem, and games, then it could yet exit this generation on top. For now, though, the system’s merely in a commanding position – and it’s down to the platform holder to ensure that it stays that way.

How important do you think that the PS4’s price advantage is? How do you think that Microsoft will respond to the difference? Let us know in the comments section below.

User Comments (24)



ShogunRok said:

I think it's as simple as the average consumer seeing $399 compared to $499 and picking the cheaper option. Although things like advertising obviously factor into that to an extent.



Epic said:

Cheaper=More Demand.
After all we also must consider everyone is avoiding the SpyBox for obvious reasons.
In My Opinion the only serious competitors for PS4 are Wii U and PCs in general.



hYdeks said:

@Epic agreed, BUT everyone else doesn't see Wii U or PC as threats, how naive they are devil horns

Microsoft dug their own grave, and Sony pushed them into the grave and cemented over it



JavierYHL said:

sony need to produce more AAA exclusive games in order to win this one really have a strong showing with their exclusive games



rjejr said:

"The practice may not always benefit the consumer in the long run, but Microsoft has proven in recent weeks that that isn’t its chief source of concern.

Only the last few weeks MS has been anti consumer? So the entire Windows 8 interface formerly known as Metro disaster, the IE anticomeptitive monopolistic behavior for about oh, the past 2 decades or so, everything before the past few weeks was MS acting pro-consumer?

Sony's $399 reveal was the most memorable moment for me this E3. In fairness, had the X1 been $399 then Sony's price may have been blah, but the $499 made the $399 special.

And don't forget, the $599 PS3 came out a full year after the 360, and at the same time as the $249 Wii. There's a reason the Wii sold well at launch. The WiiU is $299 for an 8GB storage capacity and no DVD or blu-ray. PS4 $399 and X1 $499, launching at the same time. I'm expecting a re-launch of the WiiU this summer/fall but Nintendo lets me down at almost every turn so who knows.

And yes, I foresee the cell phone model or whatever it's being called these days. The $499 was a set-up for $299 and $15 per month. Nobody would pay $299 and $15 per month for a $399 system. Broadband and Gold is required anyway, might as well go subscription.



Zombie_Barioth said:

That price difference is going to make a huge difference this holiday when people see that they can get a console and spend that left over $100 on other things. Gotta wonder how much the relatively cheaper price of the Wii U will effect things since Nintendo's big guns are due out. This could be the one generation that the weakest console doesn't win.

I wonder just how well a subsidized console would actually work, people will be attracted to the lower price but most people are also well aware of all the hassle that comes with payment plans (late fees, cancelation fees, ect.).



charlesnarles said:

Maybe kids will buy whatever's cheapest, but regular people will buy what they actually prefer... right? I'm getting PS4 if only in support of PS5 and Vita2.



StarkEvilVash said:

Can anyone tell me why ps3 doesn't support party chat yet? I'm really looking forward to playing ff14 arr but it and the ps3 don't have voice chat. What gives? I've been able to voice chat on my Xbox since the beginning, I love the ps3 and I've been giving more and more love lately but I just don't get why there's no universal chat.



irken004 said:

@StarkEvilVash Probably has to do with the amount of ram on PS3s, there's not much to work with for other features during gameplay. Hence the massive ram boost on PS4.

Also this looks to me like it'll be the Wii-Shortage outbreak for PS4 this holiday season.



Sanquine said:

@Zombie_Barioth I think the ps4 will sell the most this time. Wii u is going to become the new gamecube which is not bad. They did make profit on it



Tasuki said:

I have to admit price is probably the most important factor to me. Its why I went with an Xbox 360 last gen and why I am going with a PS4 this gen. Exclusives really dont matter to me I don't like Halo, Gears of War or Metal Gear but the games that matter to me most like GTA and Assassin's Creed come out on both systems so in the end its price that is the remaining factor for me.



Therad said:

$199 + $20/month for 24 months with gold included. This would probably spell trouble for the ps4 since people seems to love subscription models.



Alpha said:

Cant Wait for the PS4, the price will definitely help. on another note earlier on my PS3 i got a sign in error telling me to update the system software for my ps3 to 4.45. i tried updating it right now and it says im up to date but im still at 4.41, like the 4.45 isnt there availbe for download anymore. it said something about trophy notifications to were you can turn them off when i tried at first earlier in the day, my internet was slow as hell tho so i waited till now.



Gamer83 said:


Once again though, I'd caution that we not underestimate the stupidity of the North American market. Now to be fair I'm not sure of the habits of consumers in Canada, you could tell me more about that, but I know here in the U.S. these people are so easy to fool and MS are the masters of it and I fear this market will save the Xbox One's a$$. I hope to be wrong on that and that PS4 and Wii U crush MS' machine forcing a massive change in certain policies, but we'll see.



Gamer83 said:


Well, they haven't done it yet, don't know for sure how American consumers are going to react to it I'm just making an educated guess based on what I've seen my whole life. Like I said, hopefully I'm wrong and they end up opting for PS4 and Wii U.



NathanUC said:

I still know a handful of people who swear by Xbox One. Here's a quote from one of them [we were talking about his friend who claimed to have server issues with ps3 online]:
"Possibly he did but a few other people I know switched to Xbox because of the the slow Internet connection from ps3... And now are Xbox fanatics...due to the the private's just all around better gaming and not to mention they have decent graphics ...maybe not up to pare to ps3 but with the Xbox 1 surpassing the ps3 it will be all around better gaming experience ...idk much about the ps4 but from what I hear the Xbox one is suppose to set the bar for the next generation of graphics that the ps3 or 4 isn't coming out with ..."

He's really not a stupid person at all. He just doesn't follow tech much. He'll still be one to talk a lot and spend a lot in terms of games, but I don't think he's going to be a minority.

We're all talking about this because we're extremely interested in and following the console wars. We're educated and can clearly see the PS4 is currently a no brainer, but look at the 360 compared to PS3. In 2013 there's no reason to buy a 360 over a PS3 but many still do. They are uneducated/informed consumers who just hear/see what they want in the market.

TL;DR: There are blind consumers all over the place. A well educated/informed consumer is going to be the minority so we can't discredit the Xbox One just yet. If Apple can resell the same outdated crap each year, so can Microsoft.



Sanquine said:

@ViciousDS It woulld be so awesome if on launch all servers go down like simcity like. Xbox one fanboys crying of anger. And the children dont forget them screaming at there mom and dad for buying such an awful present. MOM I WANT A PS4 NOW.



ViciousDS said:

@Sanquine Yes, I don't want them to completely fail otherwise next gen sony can do whatever they want in terms of competition because everyone knows that you own a Nintendo Console and then one of the two other major least that's how I've always been lol. But I want to see it for a significant period go down at least 48 hours plus to show Microsoft the mistake they made, and the consumers who don't see what an idiotic thing they have done.



Sanquine said:

@ViciousDS Remember the ps2 era? Sony dominated but the greatest games where coming out! Roque galaxy and dragon quest on the ps2 where awesome



ViciousDS said:

@Sanquine PS2 was the greatest system of all time for RPG fans, that was when shooters were boring because of garbage online connections....I am sad that the amount of RPG's now is just so miniscule compared to the PS2.....



belmont said:

A little off topic but interesting:
Vita plus 8GB Memory plus ten free games bundle for some European countries just was announced in EU blog priced at 250 euros.
Games: LittleBigPlanet,WipeOut 2048 ,MotorStorm RC ,Little Deviants ,Frobisher Says! (with Fun Pack DLC)
Ecolibrium (with Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum game packs) ,Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters ,Lemmings ,Hungry Giraffe ,The HD Adventures of Rotating Octopus Character



BJLD1 said:

Is the PlayStation camera motorized? In other words doors it move up and down to get the best viewing angle by it self, like the kinect for xbox 360?

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