Sony Unsure On PS5 Price-Point
When late last year rumours started circulating that the Xbox Series X was substantially more powerful than the PS5, this author contended that this was not necessarily bad news for Sony. The Series X was engineered as the more expensive SKU of two next generation consoles, the cheaper of which is probably not going to release after protest from developers. The PS5 is being developed as a mid-tier entry level console, and so if Sony wait for Microsoft to reveal their launch plans and pricing, then they will have a great deal of latitude to undercut Microsoft, just as they did to great effect for the launch of the PS4. Because of this, one suggested that it would be a beneficial strategy for Sony to hold off on revealing their hand until the very last minute so that Microsoft is forced to reveal reveal their plans, and then lack the time to adjust them in reaction to Sony before launch. Microsoft are under more pressure to reveal information about their console and launch plans because the momentum is not with the Xbox brand.
This weekend on the podcast the question was raised as to why Sony was not attending this year’s E3 event, and one once again contended that this had everything to do with Sony attempting to keep their powder dry until after Microsoft shoots their load at E3. This seems to have been a pretty good take, as in the days since information has come to light that Sony are having a great deal of difficulty in pricing the PS5, lending credence to the conjecture that they are wanting to see what Microsoft decide to do.
Sony used to be a electronics corporation with a diverse line of revenue streams, and this used to allow the Playstation brand flirt with posting losses by initially selling consoles at a loss just so long as they eventually came good and became mega profitable through licensing software. Sony is no longer that company. Sony’s other manufacturing divisions have increasingly been sidelined by the competition, and the Playstation division is now the revenue stream that holds up the entire company. Because of this making a loss on every console sold at launch has become increasingly unpalatable to the Sony management. Sony had their fill of selling consoles at a loss with the PS3, so when it came to the PS4 they prioritised selling each one at a notional modest profit. In truth Sony might have just been breaking even here, as the retailers still need to make their cut, but the point stands that they were not making a loss.
The PS4 cost $381 to manufacture per console at launch, and sold at the sweet spot price point of $399. A couple of days ago it was revealed that the PS5 costs roughly $450 dollars to produce per console, with the manufacture costs being exacerbated by the fact that the next generation of mobile phones are competing with the consoles to purchase RAM. $399 really is the sweet spot for console sales, but even a $450 price tag would probably be enough to beat the Series X on price – only a $450 price tag does not take into account the cost of shipping the consoles out to retailers, nor the cut that retailers have to take to make their own profit.
If Sony want to at least break even on every console sold at launch then they are going to be looking to price the PS5 closer to the $500 mark, which is a less than palatable pricing for consumers. That said, Sony would really like to once again undercut Microsoft, and would probably be willing to make a moderate loss on every console if they had to in order to achieve this outcome. To this end, Sony are sitting tight, waiting to see how Microsoft price their console. Microsoft will also want to see what Sony plans before making their announcements, but there is more pressure on them to show their cards. Speaking at a financial briefing earlier this month Sony’s chief financial officer Kiroki Totoki had this to say:
[I]t’s very difficult to discuss anything about the price at this point of time…it’s a question of balance and because it’s a balancing act it’s very difficult to say anything concrete at this point of time.
Sony are not going to be feeling good about pushing the $500 mark, but the manufacturing costs are such that it is no easy thing to whittle the price down to $450 and eat the loss. As Totoki said, this is all a balancing act, and Microsoft’s own plans will determine what kind of latitude Sony will have in pricing their console.
Sony Never Fired the Guy Who Designed the Batarang, Apparently
… Or at least that is this author’s best guess. Sony never fired the guy who designed the PS3 Batarang, and now their entire fucking console is the Batarang!
Last year several images surfaced of PS5 dev kits, which were these awful looking things that were curved into a ‘V’ like a Batarang or something. People freaked out at how ugly it was, though we here at TDT were quick to assuage these knee jerk fears, as it is very common for dev kits to be housed in ugly utilitarian casing which bears little in common with the console that will eventually go on sale. After all, Sony certainly would not put out a console that is at least 15% uglier than the PS3 – and they would especially not do something so on-the-nose as to release such an unaesthetic console in the shape of the Roman numeral V!
It turns out that the joke may be on us. This week a photo has surfaced depicting what is ostensibly a slip up by Sony of Japan, where they appear to have accidentally had the PS5 section of their Japanese website go live, which depicts a hieroglyph depicting the PS5. Along the top of the page there are hieroglyphs which depict the PS4, PS4 Pro, and the PS5. The hieroglyph depicting the PS5 looks very similarly shaped to the dev kits that went out. It looks very convincing. Obviously the casing of a retail PS5 will be made of a higher quality material than that found in the dev kits, but it seems that it may be designed along the same principles.
At this point this has to be treated as a rumour. The fact that this was taken as photo rather than a screen capture means that the image cannot be examined for metadata indicating whether or not it has been manipulated. That said, this is by no means a fishy situation. It is possible that this section of Sony’s website is only available by logging in as a developer, and then maybe the photographer was someone gained some brief access to a Japanese development studio, and snapped the photo in passing. Then again, they may have just created the image in Photoshop, and then snapped the photo to avoid incriminating metadata. It really is a coin toss. There is functional utility in shaping the console like a ‘V’, as it provides a huge amount of surface area to accomodate ventilation. That said, would Sony really be cringey enough to shape their fifth console like the Roman numeral V?
Wizards of the Coast Is Poaching Disgruntled Anthem Devs
In April of last year is was announced that BioWare alum Jame Ohlen would be opening a development studio on behalf of Wizards of the Coast, the company behind the Dungeons & Dragons license. This week it was revealed that that studio is to be named Archetype Entertainment, and there was something else curious announced. Ohlen will be president, and joining him will be Chad Robertson as general manager and Drew Karpyshyn as lead writer – these people all worked on Anthem to some capacity, with Chad Robertson being Bioware’s head of live service, who was charged with keeping Anthem alive.
Anthem has been a bloody disaster for Bioware, which dwarfs Mass Effect: Andromeda in comparison. To this end one has quite enjoyed chronicling the game’s death and subsequent unlife, but with this latest turn it really must be asked who it is that Bioware think they are fooling? The rats are not just fleeing the sinking ship now, but are actually banding together to form their own development studios. Archetype Entertainment has only just been founded, and already it seems more capable and authentic than the hollowed out husk of Bioware which now presides over their dead game, Anthem.
As part of his announcement on his personal blog, Drew Karpyshyn had this to say:
When I started at BioWare, everything was fresh and exciting. It was a dream job – talented people working together to create epic games like Baldur’s Gate, KOTOR, Mass Effect and Dragon Age. But as we grew and became more successful, things changed. We became more corporate. We were less able to make what we loved, and the teams were pushed to create games based on market research rather than our creative instincts and passions. My dream job became just a job, and I lost the enthusiasm and excitement I once had.
But with Archetype, my passion has been rekindled. The feel in the studio reminds me of my early days at BioWare; I can feel the magic in the air. And even though I can’t get too deep into the specifics of what we’re working on yet,we’re already generating plenty of excitement in the industry.
As Bioware became more corporate they were less able to make what they love, which is how we got such fundamentally unlovable dreck as Anthem. This week Bioware promised that they were going to fully redevelop Anthem into a game that is not abjectly miserable to play, but really, who do they even have left to develop that? Bioware is done.