Third Time's The Charm?
During their Tokyo Game Show 2012 press conference Sony finally let the cat
out of the bag and announced its latest PlayStation 3 hardware revision, which
is slated to be in stores around the world in late October. The new revisions
will be smaller and lighter than the current “slim” models that have been in
stores for the last couple of years, but the pricing is not changing - and that
isn’t going to be good news for Sony as the company tries to battle for consumer
dollars this holiday season.
The new revision is going to come in three different SKUs: a $250 250GB
package, a $270 250GB package with Uncharted 3: Game of the Year Edition and
some DUST 514 bonuses, and a $300 500GB package for $300. The 250GB SKUs will be
in stores on October 25th. The 500GB package will hit on October 30th.
The first thing to notice about these price points is that there’s no
difference between what consumers are paying now and what Sony is asking for its
slimmer and sleeker revisions next month. Yes, the hard drive sizes are larger.
Yes, one of these SKUs comes with a game. That’s it, really. This is
unimpressive news and most likely will not have much effect on unit sales in the
holiday period. The continued high price, along with a weak first-party slate
for Q4, will keep sales potential in check and basically hands the holiday
season to Microsoft for another year.
I’m genuinely curious about what it would take for Sony to drop the hardware
price. Despite the revision, are the parts still the same cost? Is this a move
to keep revenue high? Perhaps Sony is comfortable with its margins and sales
trends. After all, while the PS3 is getting beaten down by the Xbox 360 here in
the US, worldwide numbers tell a different story. If Sony is content with the
status quo, there’s no pressing reason to lower pricing and diminish initial
revenue per unit sold. Then there’s the Vita variable... if Sony is going to
lower the price on anything in the near-term, it would probably have to be the
Vita as some sort of sales kicker given that the handheld can’t even break
10,000 units per week in some territories-- including the US.
On a wider scale, Sony’s decision to keep PlayStation 3 hardware pricing
static leads me to believe that Microsoft will follow suit. After all, why drop
the price when people continue to buy the hardware in relatively strong
numbers... especially in its home territory in the US? Microsoft also has Halo 4
in the on-deck circle in November, plus the advantage of time-exclusive Black
Ops II DLC in its corner. I see base pricing remaining the same for the Xbox 360
in Q4, although a value bundle of some sort with a game or two is possible.
The middle of Q4 also will see the release of the Wii U, in whatever
quantities that Nintendo can ship. I’m sticking with my initial projection of
1.25 - 1.5 million sold in November and December for now, though I’m becoming
increasingly skeptical that Nintendo can ship enough product to fill holiday
demand here in the US. With preorders allegedly being “sold out” at multiple
retail outlets, the number of unaccounted for or walk-in sales will probably be
low. My best guess is that 80% of preorder consumers will follow through and
complete their purchases this holiday season. That will probably leave less than
500,000 units out there to be fought over on the retail front lines.
Sony may be content to keep PlayStation 3 pricing steady, but with a dominant
Xbox 360 here in the US and a new platform launch with the Wii U in November,
PlayStation 3 sales won’t blow anyone away here. I expect a 15-20% dip from what
unit sales for the platform were a year ago in November and December, and that’s
in spite of the new revision.
Look for a full Q4 prediction column at the end of this month. Will Nintendo
rule the holiday season? Will Microsoft keep rolling? Can the 3DS repeat its
stellar Q4 from last year? I’ll cover those questions and more next time.