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A question of cash: Microsoft dismisses Blu Ray as GameStop brands PS3 “pricey”

By on January 10, 2009
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Update:

In a deliciously reactionary turn of events, Microsoft has responded to Sony’s criticisms of the competition. Group Product Manager for Xbox 360, Aaron Greenberg, told Kotaku that, strangely enough, he thinks the 360 represents the best value for money.

Despite a crafty dig at Sony’s sales figures (“We feel like being half the price of the PS3 served us quite well this holiday,”) and approach (“I don’t think people take comparison grids into retail stores,”) Greenberg doesn’t have an awful lot to add to the discussion, resorting to a standard “I would rather talk about why you should buy our console than why you shouldn’t buy the competitor’s system.”

The key point to take away from his comments, though, was this: “The fact that we’re doing this at half the price of their platform, we feel confident that we’re delivering great value.” Well, no, Aaron, you’re not doing the same thing for half the price, you’re doing the stripped down Arcade version for half the price – and they barely last 10 months, let alone ten years.

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In an interview with TechFlash, Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices Division boss man, Robby Bach, has dismissed all talk of a Blu Ray compatible 360 on the basis of price. This comes in the same week that Sony fiercely defends the PS3 as this generation’s best value for money.

It’s an interesting one on a couple of levels – there’s the question of how the current economic environment is impacting the pricier PS3; and of exactly what represents value for money in a console.

Bach’s position is this, “Let me get this straight: I’m going to add [Blu Ray] to the product, that’s going to raise the cost, which means the price goes up, consumers aren’t asking for it, and by the way, my game developers can’t use it.”

Fair enough. Meanwhile in a GameStop press release, “CEO Daniel DeMatteo has called Sony Corp. PlayStation 3 a “great machine,” but said it is just a bit pricey for the current economic environment.” This comes just 24 hours after Sony America issued a none too subtle (read: bluntly confrontational) statement directly attacking the relative value of the Wii and 360. That’s the fun bit.

Sony is claiming the PS3 represents “ten years of value”, while “the Xbox 360 requires additional money, multiple upgrades and additional external devices,” and “the Wii’s lack of enhanced features comes at the expense of a comprehensive entertainment solution.” Therefore, “expect the competition to continue peddling add-ons in an effort to keep up.”

I would have to say I enjoy SCEA’s ballsy position – while no one denies the hardware manufacturers are in direct competition, it’s rare anyone actually goes to the length of producing a table to demonstrate Ninty’s “limited” online gaming or Microsoft’s lack of forethought in earlier models.pricetable1b

All the same, with Blu Ray players now heading towards the £100 mark, and the recession glaring from the front page of every London free sheet, there would seem to be sense in thinking a £300 console might become (more of) a tough sell.

Personally, I’m with Sony. While I can see Microsoft’s position on Blu Ray for their own platform, Sony’s intelligent (or lucky) commitment to the format may yet pay off in the same way DVD did for the PS2. Secondly, I (and more importantly, consumers) trust Sony’s ten year commitment – and perhaps that’s where the real value lies. At eight years old, the PS2 testament to that promise – it’s still reckoned to be the most played on the planet.

How’s that original Xbox looking these days?

About Tom Jubert

Tom Jubert is a freelance games writer / narrative designer, best known for his work on the Penumbra series, for which he was nominated for a Writers' Guild Award. His upcoming releases include Lost Horizon and Driver: San Francisco. He was previously the Managing Editor at GameShadow.com, and has also spent time in production.