Dear Dave

Wednesday 18 July 2007

The bread bin strikes back!

Dear Dave,

Happy PlayStation 3 price cut in the UK day!

Well, sort of...

You were thinking about whether to buy a next-generation console and I'm not sure the choice has got any easier. What are Sony doing? That exec has been at it again. I can only imagine the meeting went like this:

(Two men sit in a large, spacious office. The Sony Exec sits at his desk, frowning at some papers. A member of the marketing team sits opposite, squirming).

Sony Europe Exec: I don't like the look of these sales figures. We need to stir things up a bit. How about we knock the price down to £350.

Sony Marketing Bod: We can't knock seventy-five quid off the price just three months after launch. That sends all the wrong kinds of signals - like we have enormous warehouses full of stock that no one wants to buy.

Exec (looking shifty): Yes... I mean, no... I mean... Er, no we couldn't possibly have them thinking that... But we do need to sell a few more units.

Bod: True, but the videogame industry is driven by confidence. No one wants to buy a console that's failing. They want to back the winner to ensure a continuing supply of good games and thus protect their investment. They buy the console they think everyone else is buying. A price cut boosts sales in the short-term but may only bring in customers who were going to buy one anyway and were waiting for the cut. Others may just be made more nervous. They may wait longer to see who's going to win the console war.

Exec: We are going to win it, obviously.

Bod: Yes, I know - it's my job to say that.

Exec: Then why aren't you saying it?

Bod: Because this is a strategy meeting and we need to separate fact from propaganda. (Sighs). Besides, you're never going to buy one anyway, are you?

Exec: Of course not. I haven't tried one yet where the thing actually makes toast properly. (He motions over to a corner of the room where a number of dead PS3s are heaped. Some of them have slices of bread poking out of the disc-drive. One appears to be leaking the remains of a Pop-Tart). Let's keep that secret, though. Don't want to put off any consumers, do we?

Bod: Not a problem, I for one certainly haven't been talking-up the PS3's ability to warm bread products. (Notices two PS3s being used as bookends on a shelf). We do, however, need to figure out a way to sell more of them. Some way that doesn't involve an early, desperate price cut.

Sony Exec: Well we won't actually cut the price - we'll bundle lots of extra stuff with it. How about another controller and a couple of games?

Bod: So people think they're getting better value for money.

Exec: Exactly. We can claim it's a large price saving while keeping the price the same.

Bod: That might work. People like to think they're getting a bargain. It'll still cost £425 but with £115 off extra content. I can sell that.

Exec: And when we sell the console on its own in November for £350 we can claim we're so confident of success that we're actually putting the price up.

Bod (holding head against the pain): Because... the box will be £75 cheaper but contain £115 less stuff?

Exec: People will buy it because it's cheaper but be confident that demand is high because it's become more expensive. They'll rush into the shops just to make sure they get there before we slash prices even more.

Bod (Shifts himself uncomfortably in his seat. Realises it is made of PS3s): Maybe a simple price cut is the way forward after all. It's what Sony America have done.

Exec (going over to a drinks cabinet): They've reduced the model with the 60Gb hard-drive by a hundred dollars and introduced the 80Gb model at the old price. I've had a word with them, though, and they're going to discontinue the old model as soon as they've sold all the ones they already have.

Bod: That may take a while.

Exec: It's possible. (He opens the cabinet. There is a bottle of whisky inside, a handful of glasses and a rip in the fabric of space and time. Through the tear can be seen a mountainside on which stands a monumental stack of PS3s. At the base of the monolith two apes are fighting. They are whacking each other over the head with consoles). Drink?

Bod (in shock): No thanks.

Exec (closing the cabinet and returning to his seat): Technically, it's not a price cut, it's a specification upgrade coupled to a stock clearance.

Bod: I... I... I'll go see about bundling those games and that extra controller. (He hurries away).

Exec (calling after him): Good lad. Let me know how it goes. (He opens a drawer of his desk. Inside is a PS3. Molten cheese is oozing out of it from every port and socket). Damn, there goes another one.

I'm still not buying one and you might be worth holding onto your old PS2 for a while yet - things aren't going much better for the competition, either:

Bill Gates contemplated buying Norway to hide all the faulty Xbox 360s that have been returned displaying the three red lights of death. It turned out in the end to be (fractionally) cheaper to admit the problem and extend the manufacturer's warranty in those cases to three years.

Nintendo have sold so many Wiis that their president, Satoru Iwata, is now too busy counting cash to actually authorise the production of any new games worth playing. They're drafting him some help but it's going to take them a while to clear the backlog. (And that's before Pokemon Diamond and Pearl go on sale in Europe).

This console war is still wide open. The PS3 is good value if you have an HDTV and want an HD movie player. The Xbox 360 is cheaper to start with but you have to pay extra for HD movie playback, wi-fi and online gaming (a lot extra). The 360 has a much wider choice of games at the moment, though. The Wii has a handful of fun games but nothing to really keep you playing for long. The graphics aren't much better than a GameCube either.

My advice - buy a second-hand Xbox or GameCube and hoover up some dirt cheap pre-owned bargains from your local GAME or Gamestation. That should keep you busy long enough for the future to become a bit clearer (and less expensive).

Happy gaming!

Yours in a woman's world,


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