Does PS2's long tail need a snip?

Ben Parfitt
Does PS2's long tail need a snip?
Ozzy Osbourne. Steve Martin. Eddie Murphy. They began their careers by flicking two scarily unfamiliar fingers in the face of civilised acceptance. But as the years rolled on, their worn out frames stumbled into the safer bracket of ‘family entertainer’.

And so it is with PS2. Once, it tore up the ‘video games = geeks’ rule book, tempting in a post-Loaded crowd looking for slick cars, bloody street battles and a slice of tech chic.

But now PS2’s audience is decreasing in number and age. So, if the console is going to drag yet another generation into gaming, does it need a price drop?

“We’re pleased to see that PS2 has shown such longevity,” says Ubisoft UK MD Rob Cooper. “It’s at an attractive price, but a price reduction in hardware and software would undoubtedly prove an extremely tempting purchase to the more casual gamer and family member.”

Atari MD UK Jeremy Wigmore agrees, adding that a cut in PS2’s price could well reinvigorate the whole pre-Christmas market: “Considering all of the financial turmoil going around, anything that might galvanise the market would be welcome. A PS2 cut would probably give it another lift.”

This view is also backed by SCi CEO Jane Cavanagh, who opines that a cut in the price of PS2 products would be a much more appealing kids’ gifting prospect for average mums and dads.

“The most important aspect of PS2 is the retail pricing,” she says. “There’s going to be a market for PS2 products for quite some time, subject to them being at a value price, which we’re keen to see become the norm.”

However, not all of the UK’s leading industry figures believe a price cut now would be the best scenario for Sony – or their own products.

General manager of Konami Pete Stone explains: “I'm sure a price-drop pre-Christmas will shift a lot more PS2 hardware. But, as we saw with PSOne, the cheaper the hardware then the lower software prices need to be.

“Someone who pays £50 for a console isn't going to spend £25 or more on a game. Eventually it stops being cost-effective to produce new games, so if we want to keep new PS2 software profitable we shouldn’t push down the hardware price too quickly.”

Whatever the encouragement from top publisher bosses for Sony to cut the SRP of the machine, there is unanimity in their admiration for the platform holder’s record on timing its price drops.

“We expect Sony to price manage the PS2’s shelf life for another two or three years at least,” says Sega of America president Simon Jeffrey.

“This generation of hardware will have longer legs than any previous generation, and that’s definitely healthy for the industry.”

Ubisoft’s Cooper adds: “The PS2 has been a great success story for Sony. And only Sony though can decide if now is the right time to drop the price in order to encourage continued sales.”

So, Sony knows best, it would seem. But with many publishers heavily backing the PS2 to charm the kids for one more Christmas, don’t be surprised if pressure builds on the platform holder to make its famously good value system even more of a bargain this Q4.

Sony says...

SCEE’s UK MD Ray Maguire:

“There are no immediate plans to cut the price of PS2. We still think it represents tremendous value for money and with continued innovative software support from ourselves and our third-party publishing partners we concur with the comments made in MCV recently about the commercial longevity of the platform. I think the big strides we have made in social gaming with franchises such as Buzz, SingStar and EyeToy give PS2 even more appeal and validity to its broadening demographic.”

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