The pricing wars of 1997 won't be waged on the hardware front, but rather the software side of things.
Sony's announcement Tuesday about Power Pricing its new titles comes as no real surprise. However, what is surprising is that through the end of this year there may not be any more price drops on video game hardware. The battle lines have been drawn, and they will be drawn on the price of software instead of hardware.
While there's plenty of time left for someone to lower its hardware price, what will count is the price of software. Nintendo or Sony could easily drop to US$99, but then the other would have to meet that price almost immediately. Both companies are doing well enough, and there's no threat that Sega will drop its price, so this may be a year with only one major hardware price drop (which happened in March).
What made this possible is that Sony's biggest competitor, Nintendo, is still using the expensive cartridge format. The loser in this case is Nintendo, who cannot possibly compete with the $39.99 price point that Sony has set for many of its new games (Game Day '98, Crash Bandicoot 2, PaRappa the Rapper, Bushido Blade and Intelligent Qube). If Nintendo can't price Tetrisphere, a puzzle game, at $40 or even $50, there's no chance that any of the Big N's games could come close.
In the end, it's all about being able to buy games. If consumers are able to buy PlayStation games for half of the price of the newest N64 title, more PlayStation games are going to be sold. As more and more Nintendo 64 games make it onto the market, there are going to be more titles to choose from. Therefore, if a company releases a game that lacks quality on the N64, it could be a sales nightmare. A $69.99 game that isn't fun is not going to sell, and as the N64 library grows, gamers are going to notice which games are good, and which aren't.
Don't count Sega out of the pricing game either. Several of its titles have already been available at the $39.99 price tag, like Saturn's Bomberman. This is sure to please Saturn owners who have stuck by the system for so long. The only problem this holiday season will be finding Saturn games, which have been relegated to major software chains like Babbage's and Electronics Boutique.
The sales of PlayStation games this holiday season will, without a doubt, be big. The fact that Sony can price the games so low will bring more consumers in. The cheaper the games, the better the chance that gifts can remain in a favorable price range. Who wouldn't want to receive two games instead of one during the holiday season?
The big question in all of this is "can third party publishers meet Sony's Power Price points?" Sony says that they have no control over where third parties price their games, and for the most part, that's true. However, if the market for PlayStation games is lowered to just under $40, companies may be hard put to meet that.
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