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Consumers will ultimately decide on PS3 price, says UK retail

Sony critics may baulk at the high price, but it's consumers that will ultimately decide whether GBP 425 is too much to ask for the PlayStation 3 come March 23, says the retail sector.

Sony's critics may baulk at the high price of PS3 but according to the retail sector, it's consumers who will ultimately decide whether GBP 425 is too much to ask when the console arrives on March 23.

From entertainment chains to independent specialists, UK retailers have told that whatever analysts, industry insiders and rival format holders think of the PS3's price tag, gamers will vote with their wallets.

"Obviously, it's quite a high threshold, which may or may not prove an issue, particularly among non-core PlayStation fans," said Tim Ellis, head of games at HMV.

"But then it's also the case that PS3 is much more than just a games console. Gamers already know this and I'm sure will respond accordingly."

Sony's pre-release mantra that the PS3 can do more than play videogames seems to have swayed consumer opinion - and that's reassured Don McCabe, MD of specialist chain Chips, that consumers will consider it worth the asking price.

"I don't think the price point will put customers off, although they'll be looking at the specification of the machine carefully to see if anything has changed from the US and Japanese units," he said.

"It's a lot of money, so it has to deliver everything the consumer expects - and if it does it may go some way to allaying fears of Europe being treated as second best."

"GBP 425 is a lot of money, but so is GBP 300 and GBP 179.99," commented Steve O'Brien, of leading indie store Action Replay.

"The price isn't prohibitive. People have a lot more disposable income and they don't mind spending it if they understand what they get for it. The PS3 is a lot more than just a games console, and those that are going to buy it understand that," he continued.

And it's not just consumers who will have to dig deep, according to McCabe. "To buy the amount of machines we require, it's not a cheap thing. We'll have to have serious conversations with our financial people to convince them to invest a lot of money at a traditionally quiet time of year," he said.

Sony has yet to announce how many of the 1 million PS3 units heading to Europe for launch day will reach the UK. But even if Britain gets around 30 per cent of the allocation, as has happened historically, and ends up with around 300,000 units, there may not be enough to meet the unprecedented demand from a loyal PlayStation fanbase.

"Initial demand is bound to be much greater than supply - that's an inevitable reality of dealing with such a major product, where anticipation has been building for years," said HMV's Ellis. "We'll start taking pre-orders, and I'm sure they'll take off in a big way."

"Without a doubt, the first 300,000 units for the UK are going to be snapped up by those we consider the hardcore gamers, the early adopters," said O'Brien.

"Pre-orders have been phenomenal. Over Christmas, Wii and the Xbox 360 were incredibly well supported, but without a doubt, taking in fixed pre-orders, the PS3 was the product that raised the most interest," he revealed.

Retail has also praised the software launch titles, even happy to concede sales of digitally distributed titles for helping expand the market.

"The industry has finally grown up and we no longer have to look at 'either/or'. We can now look at 'as well' in terms of product, and that's great news, not just for retail but for everyone," said O'Brien.

"If there's that much software available for launch, we'll be very happy. Even digital titles help grow the console market as a whole," he said.

All eyes are now firmly set on the March 23 date, less than eight weeks away. With retail already pleased at the success of the Wii and Xbox 360 launches, it's Sony's turn to prove it's still got the consumer pulling power once synonymous with the PlayStation brand.

"Nintendo and Microsoft have both delivered fantastic products and software, so Sony has really got to prove itself," commented McCabe.

"Historically, Sony did everything right for the PSone and PS2 launches, but the PSP launch was only so-so. For a long time Sony has been the king of the videogames industry, so the question now is, are they going to reassert that dominance again?"

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Matt Martin avatar
Matt Martin: Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.
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