In a much anticipated move, Sony announced a new $300 model for their Playstation 3 in Cologne, Germany during the Gamescom convention on Aug. 18. The PS3, nicknamed the Playstation 3 Slim, features a 120GB harddrive and is a third smaller and more than a third lighter than its predecessors.
Ten days later, Microsoft announced that their top-of-the-line Xbox 360 Elite, which also features a 120GB harddrive, was getting a $100 price drop to $300.
The new Xbox 360 price kicked in on Aug. 28, Sony's new lower-priced model started showing up in stores the same week.
The Xbox 360's director of product management, Aaron Greenberg, told Kotaku that the timing was coincidental, driven more by Microsoft's ability to save money on internal components than by Sony's news.
"I think it's a bit coincidental, but it's also somewhat logical with both (Sony and Microsoft) making price adjustments at this time of the year because we are turning the corner of the holiday season," he said.
But Greenberg acknowledged that, with both consoles coming in at the same price, people will be more likely to compare the two when shopping for a new gaming platform.
"We feel like we shape up pretty well to that comparison," he said, pointing out that Microsoft also sells a basic version of the Xbox 360 for $200.
"I really think that we are at a point now where it's less about the back of the box and more about the types of experiences," he added. "We have a larger line-up (of games) and this holiday, look at our exclusives: Halo 3: ODST, Forza 3, new Grand Theft Auto content.
"If you say (Microsoft and Sony) have two SKUs at the same price point, we are the hands down winner. That's why, I think, we are the only company growing this year, while Sony is seeing sharp declines."
On paper at least, Sony's Playstation 3 does seem to have some obvious advantages, most notably a built-in Blu-ray player, something the company will make sure consumers don't forget.
"PlayStation 3 has always had incredible value and now at an even more attractive $299 price point, paired with a new, and aggressive, advertising campaign, we expect to have an incredible holiday in both hardware and content sales," said Patrick Seybold, Senior Director, Corporate Communications for Sony Computer Entertainment of America. "PlayStation 3 is the most superior entertainment console on the market and while the price point and the size of the HDD may be at parity between the two consoles, the similarities stop there. With a BD drive, built in wi-fi, free access to PlayStation Network and the best gaming content available, there really is no comparison to PlayStation 3."
Seybold declined to speculate on the timing of Microsoft's price drop, but said Sony's not concerned about it.
"We're confident the value of PS3 at $299 surpasses anything else on the market, and our amazing line up of first and third party titles, matched with the incredible evolution of PlayStation Network make PlayStation the clear choice for those looking for the best in entertainment."
Dropping the price of both Sony and Microsoft's top-tier consoles to $300 also means that Nintendo could see a bit more direct competition with its $250 Wii.
Nintendo has come under increasing pressure to drop the price of their console, which still sells at the same price as the day it launched in 2006.
During an investors meeting, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata told those present that a slowdown in sales wasn't due to the console's price, but the number of big hits coming to the Wii.
He added that there currently "aren't a lot of discussions going on about what exactly to do about hardware pricing."
But with Wii sales flattening and consumers looking for more bang for their buck this holiday, it would be a smart decision.
Denise Kaigler, Nintendo of America's vice president of corporate affairs, said that Nintendo sales forecast remains unchanged despite the PS3 and Xbox 360's price drops.
"Our focus has always been on creating fun and engaging game-play experiences," Kaigler said. "Because of that focus, Wii has been the best-selling video game system in the United States for two years and counting. It offers the most fun and the best value for consumers. Wii can be played by every member of the family the moment it comes out of the box. It's the only console that offers the option of precision motion controls right now, with the Wii MotionPlus accessory. And Nintendo systems are the only place you can play new and classic Nintendo franchises. Wii games that will be on people's lists through the holidays include Wii Sports Resort, Metroid Prime: Trilogy, Wii Fit Plus and New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
"Nintendo offers something for everyone."
Microsoft and Sony both told Kotaku that they plan to heavily market their new prices during the holidays pointing out to consumers all the things they get for their $300.
"This holiday," Greenberg said, "is all about value."
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