Sony recently announced a $50 price drop on the PlayStation 3. The 160 GB model is now $249.99, and the 320 GB model is a cool $299.99. This is some unexpected good news for anyone who still is thinking about getting one, but we still have to ask: What are you up to now, Sony?
Obviously this was a calculated move going into the 2011 holiday season. With Nintendo drastically reducing the price of the 3DS and the PlayStation Vita potentially being pushed back into 2012, Sony needs to bust out the big guns to keep its consoles moving. Especially as gamers are anticipating the next generation and saving up their cash for the upcoming Wii U.
But is this move simply about moving units during the holidays? Perhaps. But it could be more than that. Is Sony clearing out its PS3 inventory to make room for the PS4? It's definitely possible. Though Sony has been saying over and over again that we won't see a PS4 for a while yet, they could very well be planning to surprise us. I highly doubt we'll hear anything as early as this year's Tokyo Game Show, but 2012's E3 could see a PS4 announcement from Sony.
Yet this doesn't take into consideration the Vita. How much faith does Sony have in the device? My guess is a lot. With all the snazzy PS3-to-Vita "transfarring" features, the HD display, and the ability to purchase any Vita game via the Internet, the Vita is a sexy little handheld indeed. The touchscreen in front and touch panel in back make it capable of some pretty gimmicky feats of magic to wow the casual crowd, while its twin sticks make it a delight for hardcore gamers. It may lack the 3DS' glasses-free 3D, but its game lineup right out the gate looks like it should be pretty impressive. And all this comes for a very reasonable price.
Frankly, I just don't see Sony moving on to the PS4 quite yet. I think the Vita is going to be their focus through 2012, especially since the handheld market is so strong in Japan. In fact, even this late in the game, the PSP is still a big seller over there. Since the Vita goes hand-in-hand with the PS3 anyway, a heavy Vita focus could be a very solid move. In fact, does Sony have so much faith in the Vita that the PS3 price drop could be seen as a potential selling point for the handheld? I mean, look, you already have a PS3, why don't you get a Vita as well and watch the magic they can make together?
Maybe, maybe not. This could just be a grab for holiday sales, as I mentioned earlier. I mean, the PS3 has a pretty strong lineup of exclusives in the near future. It might be wise to lower the price of the base console to convince people to pick up some PS3 exclusives this holiday. Maybe they're even hoping to bring some of Call of Duty's crowd over to the Sony side (Modern Warfare 3 preorders have been heavily weighted on the 360 side so far), and keep the fighting game ball firmly in their court for when Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 releases.
But I don't think Microsoft is ready to just roll over and take this. I imagine we'll see price drops on the 360 in the near future. We could see the 4 GB models go as low as $149.99, bringing the price right around that of the Wii and still considerably cheaper than the PS3.
Also, if this price drop trend continues as Nintendo kicks off the next console generation, will this drive the entry prices down on the Wii U? It could. Will Nintendo be able to sell the Wii U at a $500 or $600 entry price when the PS3 and 360 are both so cheap and have such strong game libraries? In fact, by holding back the PS4 and the Xbox 720 (or whatever the next-gen consoles will be called), Sony and Microsoft could put Nintendo in a fairly precarious position.
My prediction: Sony isn't quite getting ready to announce the PS4. I think 2012 is going to be Sony's "Year of the Vita." However, depending on how that works out for them, the PS4 could arrive as early as 2013. I mean, Nintendo's not doing so well banking on their own handheld this year. Then again, the 3DS game lineup has been incredibly weak so far, and the blossoming mobile games market isn't helping 3DS sales any.
Also, as John Koller, director of hardware marketing for Sony, pointed out in a recent interview, "We view [PS-branded handhelds and mobile gaming] as two separate demographics, and we've done a lot of quantitative and qualitative research to back this up. When you look at the type of consumer that's playing cell phone games currently, it's someone that enjoys smaller 'kill time' gaming and has not gravitated to the larger, richer, deeper experiences that true handheld gaming provides."
Basically, the Vita has enough hardcore appeal that it should be able to succeed right alongside mobile games. Further—Koller understandably didn't say this outright—the 3DS was aimed at the casual market, and is therefore in direct competition with the enormous mobile gaming market. This is a disadvantage the Vita doesn't necessarily have. So it's quite possible that the Vita could succeed in a market in which the 3DS has failed.
Also, the price drop of the PS3 could drive a price drop in the 360, and ultimately force Nintendo to think very hard about what they want as an introductory price for their Wii U. Nintendo is still not ready to announce the Wii U price yet, and I imagine they are waiting to see how this price war all plays out.
Either way, this is going to be a great holiday season for gaming, even if we don't hear anything about the PS4 or a price point for the Wii U.
CCC Editor/Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*