Believe it or not, there seem to be consumers who are debating whether to buy a Wii U. Apparently, some people are even still on the fence about buying either an Xbox 360 or a PS3. Cutting out every other single factor, is there a price point that could make a videogame console purchase more obvious for the undecided?
Before the recent announcements of Sony’s new PS3 Slim revision and Nintendo’s Wii U pricing, Gamasutra ran an article framed around the contention that the current Xbox 360 and PS3 entry prices are the biggest barrier for potential console buyers. And yet, at $200 for the cheapest subscription-free Xbox 360 and $250 for the cheapest PS3, the cheapest Wii U arrives at $300.
A common initial reaction to the Wii U’s pricing (my own included) was that it’s $50 too much. The Wii debuted at $250 and didn’t have an official higher-priced bundle. However, being honest, wanting the Wii U to sell for $250 regardless of features is not that different from wanting Blu-rays to be priced less than $10. If I’m interested in a Blu-ray title, I’ll buy it at $10 or less. Of course, that doesn’t mean I only buy cheap Blu-rays, but it’s a price threshold that makes the decision easy.
Granted, like many other tech enthusiasts, I’m rarely attracted to entry-level models, especially if they’ll require expensive memory upgrades down the road. I also have no doubt that our Bonus View readers can see the value in paying a little more to get more features (e.g. a higher-end Blu-ray player that has built-in Wi-Fi). A $50 price difference for a console really isn’t that much. It’s less than the price of a single boxed game. Like many, I’ve been conditioned over the years not to fixate heavily on a console price without also considering the price of its games and accessories.
Just last year, Nintendo publicly admitted that it launched the 3DS at too high a price point, and was forced to slash that price from $249.99 to $169.99 after only a few months. This quick action is at least partially credited for a turnaround in 3DS sales. In contrast, Sony’s PS Vita remains at $249.99, even though many consumers see its base price and expensive memory as a big purchase barrier – even more so than a lack of titles. With that said, handheld consoles are a different beast, and the incredible success of Nintendo handhelds from the Game Boy to the 3DS is hardly a blip in the public consciousness. They’re not a part of the living room experience or morning talk shows.
More and more, I expect that Nintendo will orchestrate a sales success for the Wii U this holiday period. The combination of Nintendo die-hards and parents looking for a family-friendly product should certainly be enough to trigger sell-outs of the limited Wii U supply. Still, if the Wii U and consoles in general are going to continue to be hot holiday items, the gaming companies behind them may need to rethink their pricing.
Setting aside other factors, is there a magic number that would get you to buy a new console this year?