Next Gen Price Wars2
Matt posted in Playstation 3, Wii, Xbox 360 on July 21st, 2006
Next gen seems to offer the greatest spread of console pricing since the 3DO was released. How can you get the most bang for your next gen buck? Let’s look at the price points and see what you can get for it.
The Wii is confirmed to cost less than $250. This is absolutely no problem for Nintendo because the hardware is an incremental revision over the 5 year old GameCube console. Assuming that Wii is coming out for $249.99 (which is less than $250, and I have a feeling that they’ll release at this price despite that all their other consoles came out at $200), Xbox 360 may look mighty tempting. The problem is that if you buy the $300 Xbox 360, you don’t have any storage for your saved games. (Wii comes with 512 MB of internal flash memory). For some reason Microsoft has seen fit to charge $40 for 64 MB memory cards, which is quite expensive (Not as bad as the $30 I paid for an 8MB PS2 memory card a couple weeks ago though). For comparison, a 64 MB USB pen drive, which is basically the same hardware as Microsoft’s memory card (you can actually rewire a memory card to interface with your PC using USB) is $10 on www.pricewatch.com. So, a potential consumer concerned with price is looking at $250 vs. $340 comparing the two platforms if they want to save their games (which I think everyone does). Although traditionally, console makers make a lot of money back on the peripherals, I think Sony has the right idea allowing generic hard disks (both USB and internal, although I imagine internal 2.5” hard disks are going to be trickier to find) as well as compact flash/memory stick readers. So, that $40 memory card really hurts Microsoft for people in the budget group. If it were $300 with some sort of storage alternative vs $250, I think that would really cut into Wii’s sales with the budget gamers. Maybe Microsoft should open up their platform and allow other storage devices for saved games.
If you aren’t interested in either Blu-ray or HD DVD Microsoft is the clear winner in this price range because besides Blu-Ray, the $400 Xbox 360 System and the $500 PS3 console are functionally equivalent. If you’re interested in a next gen media format, the Xbox comes out behind because the 360 HD DVD add on is going to cost $200 according to quickly removed information on the Microsoft site (which unlike other Xbox 360 peripherals seems like a good deal). For $500, you could get the 360 Core System and the HD DVD add on, but you wouldn’t have the 20 GB hard disk that the $500 PS3 includes. It’s possible that Microsoft might create a new bundle where you can get an Xbox 360, HD-DVD and a hard disk for $500, but that’s unlikely.
This category is the interesting one. If you are interested in all the features that Sony offers, the Playstation 3 is a much better deal. For $700, you can get an Xbox 360 premium pack, an HD-DVD drive and a Wireless Ethernet adapter (which costs $100. For comparison, you can get a wireless USB adapter that will work with the Playstation 3 for $13.59). The Playstation 3 still comes out ahead because it has HDMI and the 60 GB hard disk. Microsoft should really lower the price of their wireless adapter, or allow 360 owners to use adapters from generic vendors. Even still, there’s no way to get HDMI output on the Xbox 360, which could cripple the HD-DVD player should content providers start using iCT, which will downsample the source material if the media is played without every device that relays the signal to have HDMI (except of course the wires). There are rumors that Microsoft will release a Xbox 360 with an HDMI port on it. As much as I would love to get HDMI, I don’t know if I’m willing to buy another Xbox 360… Nintendo was pretty sneaky in actually REMOVING their HD port on GameCubes manufactured after a certain date, so maybe most consumers don’t distinguish hardware by its video out capabilities, but in the case of HDMI, it can cut the resolution in 1/4 for viewing an HD movie. (Although, that’s assuming that Xbox 360 with an HDMI port could actually display HD DVD movies at 1080p rather than 1080i)
So who gives you the best value for your money really depends on what features you want and what price range you are looking for. If you don’t care about HD and price is important to you (and you like playing games with the Wii-mote) then obviously the Wii is your best choice. But if Wii is $250 and you aren’t sold on the controller, the core pack at $300 for Xbox 360 might be tempting. Xbox 360 is the only console at the mid price range, which could prove to be the sweet spot for next gen pricing. The main downside problem with Xbox 360 is that Microsoft has a lot of markup on potentially desired upgrades (700% on the wireless adapter, 400% on the memory card and 200% on the hard disk versus the equivalent hardware prices from www.pricewatch.com), so if you don’t like what you get out of the box, you’ll have to pay quite a bit for the additional functionality. One of the great things about Playstation 3 is that if you don’t like your original configuration, you can upgrade it using PC hardware (so you don’t have to overpay for your components), but you cannot upgrade to the HDMI port, which is really bad if studios start using iCT for next gen media. Playstation 3 seems to offer the most features if you are prepared to drop $500 or $600 mostly because the Xbox 360 extra peripherals are expensive. Which one is the winner? It’s hard to say. All three have wildly varying configurations and there’s little overlap in the price points. All I know is I love my Xbox 360, and I’m looking forward to both the Playstation 3 and the Wii.