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UK retailers talk price of PS3

'Irrelevant', say shopkeepers.

One of the biggest controversies to emerge from E3 revolved around the price of the PS3 - which, as we revealed last week, will cost £425 when it hits the shops on November 17th.

But UK retailers have told our sister site, GamesIndustry.biz, that the high price is unlikely to put off hardcore gamers.

“Given the machine is likely to be a sell-out this side of Christmas, I think the price point is irrelevant for the first six months,” CeX marketing manager Jonathan Cronin told GI.biz.

“The launch frenzy will be there - this is the new PlayStation not the new Xbox. Four million units globally before Christmas? I don't think you'll be able to buy one off the shelf.”

“We welcomed Sony's PS3 announcement at the E3 convention, putting an end to the speculation surrounding a UK launch date,” offered Gamestation group product manager Anna Downing.

“The November 17th date sets up an extremely competitive and exciting Q4, with consumers potentially having the choice of three 'next-gen' consoles on the market. We're anticipating that demand will outstrip supply.”

Steve O'Brien, boss of leading indie retailer Action Replay, agrees. “With the amount of product coming into the UK I think Sony could have quite comfortably priced it at twice the price and still sell-out twice over,” he suggested.

“In the first round of any console sales it's the fanboys and hardcore gamers who buy it. I think the strength of the brand is key.”

It's highly likely that the PS3 will sell out during the launch window, even though Sony has yet to confirm how many units will be allocated to UK retailers. With that in mind, it's no surprise that retailers aren't keen to publicly criticise the price point and risk Sony rethinking their allocation.

But not everyone was so charitable. “Such high prices are a difficult thing to push at retail level especially with the continued problems of distribution, release dates, and product availability that have dogged UK product releases for some time,” insisted Steve Aspinall, owner of indie V-Ten Entertainment.

“And that's without the mass-discount culture convincing the consumer to wait a few months, and the uncanny shortage of convincing software for the platform, not to mention the continued implication that next gen gaming cannot take place without a next-gen television set.”

Many agree that Sony has a challenge on its hands when it comes to convincing us to buy into Blu-Ray - the main driver behind the PS3's hefty price tag - as the war with Toshiba's HD-DVD format kicks off. And with Microsoft hinting that an Xbox 360 plus HD-DVD drive will cost less than a PS3, the pressure just keeps piling on.

“If you've got a PS3 next to a 360 you need to be able to see the difference if you're going to be asked to pay more. Microsoft must be pleased there's a nice price differential there,” commented CeX's Cronin.

“People will say PS3 is expensive because they haven't got a clue what's in it - they just see it as another box to play games on,” argued leading analyst Nick Parker of Parker Consulting.

“It's totally abstract to the consumer, a lot to get your head around. Sony has future-proof technology – everything you'll need if you're seriously into accessing games, movies or music on demand.

“It's getting people to understand that their DVD player is basically going to be out-of-date in a couple of years' time. If you buy a PS3 now you'll get a games machine and next-generation movie technology,” Parker continued.

“When PS2 came out DVD was already understood by the consumer - but who knows what Blu-Ray is? Sony needs to convey the value in the price; it's a longer term problem for them.”

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GamesIndustry International is the world's leading games industry website, incorporating GamesIndustry.biz and IndustryGamers.com.

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