Is Sony's Planning a 'Budget' $199.99 PS3?

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File this under 'probably a mistake', but I've seen it with my own eyes, and you can too: A $199 PlayStation 3 posted on Sony's new 3D website. MaxConsole noticed it first, and speculates that it "looks very plausible indeed."

Scroll down to the bottom of the page, and sure enough, listed under '3D-Compatible Products' beside categories like 'HDTV' and 'Home Theater', a picture of a PlayStation 3 with the text "Starting at $199.99."

Just a mistake? Or a future post-announcement (announced at E3 next week?) template someone pulled the trigger on too soon?

No one's expecting price drops on any existing console SKUs at E3, but Sony's up against two competitors--Microsoft and Nintendo--with cheaper sticker tags. While Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite costs $300, the Nintendo Wii is just $200, as is Microsoft's entry-level Xbox 360 Arcade.

Sony's PS3 is only available in storage-differentiated $300 and $350 iterations by comparison. While either of those may offer better value in a spec-for-spec comparison, the company lacks an entry-level model of its own--one that could compete in the psychologically crucial 'price tag for price tag' column.

What could Sony offer in a 'budget' PS3? Dropping the storage from 120GB to 60GB or 80GB wouldn't save them much, so it's hard to say what they'd cut, if anything. You'd expect the controller, a USB cable, and composite video, and they can't yank the Blu-ray drive, since PS3 games depend on it. Perhaps the 120GB and 250GB SKUs would get a spec bump? Maybe the 120GB model disappears and the 250GB model drops to $300?

None of it seems very likely, given the mortifying profit losses Sony's endured trying to get its once boutique-priced flagship console cost-aligned with mass market demand.

Update: Sony says it's mistake (no surprise there) and the link now indicates the 120GB $299.99 model. Honest mistake or public relations legerdemain? Probably the former.

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