About That PlayStation 3 Price Cut in Two Weeks

Predicting PlayStation 3 price drops is at this point a bit like buying up every lottery ticket in the universe before playing. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. The chances that Sony won't eventually whack a chunk of change off its price tag are of course scientifically zero, so it's all down to guessing, guessing again, then guessing again until you've got it right. Right?

Right, except for the part where you annoy the public to the point they understandably bite the hand off and feed it back to you. No one likes to be jerked around. Stand up. Sit down. Stand up. Sit down. You know the procedure. It's not exactly like the Homeland Security Advisory System, but there are trace similarities.

Thus: If these breaking rumors in the Telegraph about a slimmed up PS3 and corresponding price cut to be announced at the upcoming mid-August games convention in Cologne, Germany are accurate, it won't be a coup so much as inevitably accurate prognostication.

As critical as we in the press have been about Sony's redoubtable refusal to budge so much as a penny, point, set, and match to Sony for hewing to its financial principles and not so much outfoxing as outlasting its harshest critics and doomsayers. Many predicted the PS3 would be impacted deleteriously by towing the "boutique pricing" line. At launch, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell said "I think Sony shot themselves in the foot…there is a high probability [they] will fail…the price point is probably unsustainable."

The truth is that Sony's done reasonably well despite those intuitively unfavorable price-point odds, selling some 24 million units worldwide since November 2006. Stack that against the Xbox 360, sitting at around 31 million worldwide since November 2005.

It's important when you're matching numbers--for those that care probably more than they should about this stuff--to remember that Microsoft had a full year lead. It's easy to forget that, 3-4 years along. Depending on your vantage, Sony's PS3 has actually sold more units in an aggregate period-to-period (32 vs. 44 months) comparison. However you draw up the math, the company is holding third place with grace, behind their primary competitor in worldwide unit sales by a notable span, but certainly not an unreasonable one.

Thanks to Gamesindustry.biz for alerting me to the fact that Amazon US just dropped the price of its PS3 160GB Uncharted/PAIN bundle from $500 to $450, and reminding us that Gamescom (basically Europe's E3) is just a few weeks away. I don't know who "several sections of the industry" preceding the statement "believe an official price drop for the console will be announced by Sony" refers to, but the scuttlebutt on the gossip blogs is that Sony's up to "something" (isn't that just brilliant?). Mind you, said blogs are wrong a lot of the time (or at best "right" in the sense that in throwing a thousand darts--and blog posts--at a dartboard, eventually one will glancingly hit).

All of this latest round of speculating comes on the heels of Sony's late July announcement that it's lopped "About 70%, roughly speaking" off PS3 manufacturing costs since launch. Factor in a Digitimes report last week ("Sony PS3 components demand growing significantly") that Sony's ordered up enough parts to make one million consoles in the third quarter of this year, i.e. twice as many as the same period last year. The implications are, well, what the implications are: Sony's either planning to sell a whole lot of price-unchanged PS3's this holiday, or use a price drop to fuel a sales boom.

Since we're about as good in the press as meteorologists at predicting the weather, might as well have some fun with it. Based on the above and/or any additional evidence you care to consider, what do you think?

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