SANTA MONICA, Calif.--Yesterday, in a pre-E3-emptive strike, Sony Computer Entertainment America announced that it would be cutting the price of the 60GB model of the PlayStation 3 console in North America to $499 (C$549). It also confirmed that the 80GB model of the PS3, which was recently announced for South Korea, would also be coming to North American shores in August at a price of $599 (C$659), bundled with racer MotorStorm.
The announcement followed months of speculation, including a confirmation from CEO Sir Howard Stringer himself that he was looking to "refine" the PS3 price before the Christmas period, and various analyst predictions. Still, as recently as three days ago, Sony Corp. president Ryoji Chubachi told Bloomberg that the company still had no "immediate plans" for a price cut.
Is Sony playing coy or did it have a sudden change of heart? Is the price cut a shrewd move or an act of desperation? Will it lure more gamers into the PS3 fold or simply cut deeper into Sony's bottom line? GameSpot caught up with SCEA CEO and president Jack Tretton to get the lowdown on why the company decided to cut the price by $100, why it did it now, and what's next.
GameSpot: What was the reason for the price cut?
Jack Tretton: I think we have to put it in context. So, obviously, the introduction of the 80GB version of the PlayStation directly ties in with the decision to give the 60GB version a price cut. That's it's only for North America--we'll have different configurations for different regions.
GS: Why cut the price now?
JT: We're always looking to pass on value to our consumers. We felt that the 80GB version was called for by the amount of online content that is coming. We have 40 games coming to the PlayStation Network this year alone, and two Blu-ray disc-based games also available for download this year--SOCOM: Confrontation and Warhawk.
We believe that you have to have a device that every consumer needed, and we did that, not the competition. Every PS3 has an internal hard drive and a Blu-ray player with 50GB of storage capacity on a one-sided disc. And we will bring out games like Lair, which is a 25GB game, within the very first year of the production cycle.
GS: Are price cuts going to follow in other regions, like Japan and Europe?
JT: This is just a North American announcement.
GS: A lot of European gamers think they're getting a raw deal, with the PS3 already proportionally costing more than anywhere else, and now no news of a price drop for the region. What would you say to them?
JT: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe is working very, very hard to bring added value to the European consumers. There will be announcements coming from them, but I personally cannot comment right now, I'm afraid.
GS: Any plans for first-party games to drop in price too?
JT: We have 15 exclusives coming this year from our Worldwide Studios alone. As a pricing model, we're pretty comfortable where we are.
GS: Are you expecting Microsoft to retaliate with its own price drop?
JT: We've had different competitors over the years, and we've never been first to market, or been the cheapest. We believe in a 10-year life cycle. If you spend all your time thinking about your competitors and what they're doing, then you lose your own path.
GS: So the price drop was not in response to any outside influences?
GS: Will the new 80GB models use emulation instead of the emotion engine, as those in Europe do?
JT: Yes, that is correct.
GS: Some people are saying that 20GB doesn't make an awful lot of difference. Can you envisage an even bigger hard drive in the future?
JT: The decision to add 20GB to the hard drive, as opposed to any other amount, was a matter of value. We're really trying to keep the price point at $599 and include MotorStorm as well.
GS: The MotorStorm bundle says "limited edition" on the box. How many copies will be available?
JT: It's going to be dependent on consumer demand. We will react one way or another once we see how it's going, in the same way that we did for the 20GB and the 60GB models. It will definitely be available through the holidays, and we will adjust after then according to consumer demand.
GS: Once this offer ends, will the 80GB model still be $600?
JT: What we will do going forward will depend on how we do against our business plan. At the moment, what we have announced now is the extent of our concrete plans.
GS: The original PlayStation and PlayStation 2 both had exclusive games which made them "must buy" consoles. What do you think will be that game for the PS3?
JT: I think the beauty of the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 was the tremendous depth of content. If you asked 10 different consumers what that game was for them, you would get 10 different answers. So, I feel I can only speak for myself personally, and personally, I'm really excited about Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Heavenly Sword, Lair--which really shows off the Sixaxis--and the continuation of the SOCOM franchise, which has done great things on the PlayStation Portable and PS2.
So we're really excited about that coming to the PS3. In fact, we really feel that any of our current 15 exclusives right now are platform drivers. In fact, Resistance: Fall of Man and MotorStorm have each already sold over 1 million copies worldwide over a brief period of time, so these two titles are also already platform drivers as well.