AUG. 20, 2013 • Very quietly Sony Computer Entertainment of America has brought the 12GB PlayStation 3 Slim to North America at $199. The model was released last October at €229 ($307) as an exclusive to Europe and Hong Kong with no plans for a U.S. introduction. Last week the SKU turned up in advertising from Canadian retailer FutureShop (owned by Best Buy Co. Inc.), and this week in the United States on Sony’s own web store and at Best Buy. The 12GB PS3 joins the similarly flash-based 4GB Xbox 360 at this price point. The North American introduction of the $199 SKU was not accompanied by an announcement from Sony. Included at that price is a top-loading Blu-ray player, Dualshock 3 controller, A/V cable, USB cable and a power cord. An optional 500GB hard drive upgrade kit is also available separately.
In related news, Sony reduced all models of the PlayStation Vita in the U.S. to $199. The move includes both the $249 WiFi and $299 3G versions, plus the new PS Vita The Walking Dead bundle. Sony is also cutting the MSRP of 32GB and 16GB Vita memory cards by $20 for each, and by $10 on the 8GB card. Sony also announced firm launch dates for the PlayStation 4. The new console will go on sale in the United States and Canada on November15th at $399. Europe and Latin America will get the PS4 starting on November 29th. European pricing has been set at €399 and £349. Launch dates for Japan or other Asian markets were no disclosed.
Impact: Normally console makers take the opportunity to attract price conscious consumers to their brand with a drop in price on existing models as a new hardware cycle begins. That’s not what we think is happening with this 12GB SKU. Price reductions are probably in store later in the year for the 250GB and 500GB models. We see the 12GB version’s arrival this summer as a direct shot across the Wii U’s bow. Nintendo’s 8GB model is still saddled with a $300 MSRP, and isn’t selling well. Neither is the 32GB Wii U faring much better at $349. A mainstream consumer may not pull the trigger on a $269 or $299 PS3 either, but $199 is a better proposition. It’s just one more solid reason for those sitting on the fence not to buy a Wii U. Another positive for Sony is that the Xbox 360 at this price point suffers blatantly from not having a Kinect included. The PlayStation Move is not seen as a must-have in the same way as the Kinect is widely perceived. The biggest downside for flash storage consoles like this is that major games like the upcoming Grand Theft Auto V will require 8GB of that storage to run.
The reduction in list price for the PS Vita is very welcome. Many consumers will likely take another look at the handheld. But promising a wealth of titles in the fall is not the same as having a wealth of great titles on hand right now. True, most PS4 titles will support the Remote Play feature that will allow them to be streamed to the Vita, but that is not the same as compelling game experiences designed specifically for the Vita. Consumers are still waiting to see Vita-specific content worthy enough to encourage people to part with their dollars. In Japan, a continuous string of titles like Atlus’ Dragon’s Crown are driving Vita sales there. That’s a scenario we have yet to see in North America. A price reduction is welcome, but it won’t manifestly alter the Vita’s fortunes until consumers see the content.
The biggest surprise on Sony’s PlayStation 4 launch plans is just how widely in Latin America that Sony is spreading the new system around. We expected Brazil and Mexico, but the list of markets is much fatter: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama and Peru. Pricing was not announced and likely will be significantly higher in these countries, yet the breadth of the Latin American launch is impressive. The lack of launch data for Japan or elsewhere in Asia is intriguing. A delayed console launch in Japan is not unprecedented, but no data whatsoever on the home market raises questions. It all could be a factor of how many units can be produced. El Salvador, Poland or Guatemala won’t need an enormous supply of PS4s to match what Japan could gobble up. Yet we also wonder whether the Japanese market is shifting significantly enough toward mobile and handheld gaming that Sony can defer its next-generation console plans there.