Controversial Christmas console costs

By Craig Zammit

SYDNEY: With the introduction of two new next generation video game consoles in 2006 – the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Xbox 360 – a console can now cost upwards of $650. With Sony’s PlayStation 3 expected to cost $999, will the increases be too much for consumers?

Current.com.au spoke to Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) Australia and New Zealand’s managing director, Michael Ephraim, and asked him whether products like Nintendo’s Wii will threaten Sony’s main Christmas offering, the PlayStation 2 (PS2) console.

“Nintendo is a very good company, but its offering means that by the time you walk out of the store you have to spend about $500: that’s not family value. With PS2, you have a great home entertainment product for around $300.

“When you look at an affordable gaming/home entertainment product, there is no other choice than PlayStation 2 for this Christmas. We have absolutely no competition in this price-point,” Ephraim said.

Whether consumers prefer to spend a little more on the latest gaming technology or if they are willing only to spend $300 on previous generation products, remains to be seen. Ephraim however is confident that the PS2’s favourable pricing will win-out, in what should become the PS2’s final Christmas as Sony’s premier product.

However, with living-cost-increases in recent times, it has been suggested that $999 for a PlayStation 3 console is simply too much, making both the Wii console at approximately $399 and the Xbox 360 at $649, much more affordable options.

Ephraim sees the Xbox 360 as a console with a somewhat limited offering and a slowing momentum, despite Microsoft preparing several major release gaming titles for the Christmas 2006 period.

“Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has been slowing in sales for quite a while now – you only need to talk to the retailers. It has a very limited offering, and let’s not forget that to walk out of a store with an Xbox 360 this Christmas you need to spend in the vicinity of $700 or $800.”

Ephraim believes that, even in the face of such strong competition, this Christmas will belong to Sony and the PlayStation 2.

“We don’t think Xbox 360 is going to encroach on PS2 sales this Christmas, we think PS2 will encroach on Xbox 360 sales. I don’t think [the other consoles] are going to come close to our numbers.”

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