SONY'S PS3 strategy is the most evocative industry topic of recent times. It has inspired empassioned debate among retailers, publishers, developers and journalists – not to mention a million furious forum rows.
And on Friday October 5th, Sony's saga took another significant twist. The introduction of the stripped-down 40GB SKU, alongside the phasing out of the higher-end model, has re-ignited the debates once more.
Pressure has come from every element of the industry over PlayStation 3's launch price – and now, on first impressions, it would seem Sony has given in.
But as we sit down to begin the interview, Ray Maguire is far from apologetic. This is not a u-turn, he says. This is an evolution of the offering. From all the research we have looked at and the feedback we were getting from consumers, it was clear that there's an overwhelming demand for people to get into PlayStation 3 gaming,” begins Maguire.
They're saying the thing that's stopping them is the entry price. We've listened and worked on two products to get people into the marketplace with two different sets of attributes.”
Maguire is unrepentant, and supremely confident when discussing the 40GB SKUs potential at retail. Most of the changes are totally invisible to the consumer. The reason we've taken those decisions are that as far as the memory card slots are concerned, there are plenty of USB peripherals out on the marketplace consumers can buy. And there are so many low price USB ports out there which can give you as much connectivity as you like.
"We felt taking those elements out, reducing the price and giving people an entry level price point was worth the decision.”
But that entry level model means that Sony is phasing out the model that launched across Europe just six months ago – surely a drastic change in approach? Not so, says Maguire.
We've been considering this since launch. This is all part of a very carefully thought-out plan. We can couple manufacturing costs with a great deal of investment to make sure that we can move from the early adopters into the next level of consumer that wants to get into PlayStation 3.”
And in explaining that price drop, Maguire is keen to stress that as with any high-end technology, prices come down. And is keen to distance the drop from what happened with the original Xbox in 2002 – which saw its price slashed within weeks of its launch.
As far as customers are concerned, in their hearts people understand that most things in consumer electronics go down,” continues Maguire. It's frustrating but I have no doubt that people that have got into PlayStation 3 six months ago have had six months of entertainment from the world's most powerful games console.
We've seen some consoles in the marketplace going down in a matter of weeks – we're six months in. It's a good move for everyone for the price to go down. I don't think anyone wants it to stay where it was just because that was the price they bought at.”
And what of that well documented anti-Sony sentiment? Maguire is pragmatic on the subject – and highly vocal in his criticism of the doubters. People's perception of us will be determined by the offers and services that we provide. If the product was too expensive for them, of course they're going to feel ‘anti', but now that it is in reach I imagine there will be some changing of attitudes,” he adds.
I think it's always easy for people to try and analyse what we do and don't do, but they don't have sight of running the company and the financials involved. So they end up with internet information – and that is often based on a complete lack of understanding of the facts. It is something that we just have to accept.”