The mainstream press may be all excited about Wii U, but listen to developers, publishers and important business types talking at the LA Convention Center this week and it's PlayStation Vita which is mentioned again and again.
Why? Because of that price point: $249 / 249 for the Wi-fi-only model and $299 / 299 for the Wi-fi and 3G version. Pretty much everyone expected the powerful portable to be more expensive.
Here, in an interview with Sony Computer Entertainment Europe boss Andrew House, we discuss the Vita pricing strategy, the European release date and Sony's hopes for the handheld. Plus we quiz him on how PS3 is performing and that big elephant in the room: the PlayStation Network hack.
Eurogamer: The Vita price is cheaper than expected. Was that a deliberate move?
Andrew House: I characterise it as a very strong push from the marketing and publishing arm within the organisation. If we were to build not just a core gamer audience for Vita but to move, I would hope very swiftly, towards more of a mass market proposition, having a strategic, aggressive price was clearly a key part of that equation.
I'm really happy we were able to achieve that. Our engineers have done a stellar job of delivering a great product, but also allowing us to hit a price point we feel is attractive.
The strategy, in essence, is we want phase one to appeal to the core gamer audience, technology and entertainment enthusiasts, hope they validate the experience, but then move more swiftly than with PlayStation Portable into a much broader audience.
Price is important. But a lot of the experiences are designed with connectivity from the ground up. We think that's an absolute essential, particularly for a younger audience. Certainly based on the experience of my own kids, they view connectivity and connected devices as a birthright. That is a key part of the proposition.
"£230, £280 is a really good starting point."
Eurogamer: You announced a US and Euro price. We've seen some UK retailers go with £230 for the Wi-fi model and £280 for the 3G and Wi-fi model. Do you anticipate a price war?
Andrew House: It's probably not appropriate for me to comment on retail partner strategies. Clearly they have to manage their own business.
£230, £280 is a really good starting point. We've got some time till launch. We haven't released launch timings. In the coming months we'll hone in on that and have more specifics.
Eurogamer: Kaz Hirai was quoted as saying it'll be sold as a loss with a view to making a profit in three years. Is that just the way it has to be these days in order to build an installed base?
Andrew House: We have operated by and large very successfully around a model that works on what we call a blended margin. We have very low margins or possibly negative margins on the hardware, offset by a much more attractive margin structure on software and peripherals.
We'll manage the business very much in that same way for Vita.
Eurogamer: There seems some confusion over when Vita will launch in the various territories. When will it arrive in Europe?
Andrew House: We're not in a position to talk about specific launch timeframes right now. Just to clarify, it's for one very good reason. Sony was significantly impacted by the events of 11th March in Japan. That has led us, as our parent has also discussed as well, to undertake a very broad assessment of impact on our supply chain and on our procurement of components, and we're still in the process of going through that full assessment.
Once we've done that and we know exactly where we are in terms of production quantities and the robustness of the supply chain, then we'll be in a much better position to talk about specific launch timeframes and specific geographies.