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Weekly Musings #39 Price Tags
Author: Michael Ahlf 
Date: May 22nd 2005

Price tags, price tags, price tags. It all comes down to price tags.

Conjectures in the industry concerning the next generation of consoles are scary. The Xbox360 might cost more than $300. The PS3 is tagged at a whopping $465 (adjusted for exchanged rate from the price tag in Yen). Of the three next-generation consoles, only Nintendo's Revolution looks like it'll come in at under $300.

In mobile gaming, Nintendo had it down. GBA SP? $99 or less depending on where you look. Game Boy Micro? Probably about the same. Nintendo DS? $150, but it plays those GBA titles.

And then there's the PSP. Amazingly, once you figure in the real costs of this thing, it comes out worse than any of the home consoles. Why? Because you don't *have* to have extras for them to enjoy them - a standard TV with stereo sound will still be good enough. CNN Money predicted that the price of a "hardcore gaming rig" might be over $1700 when you throw in a big-screen HDTV and surround sound, but those are luxuries that most people can live without and, further, that they'll use for other things (such as watching movies and TV, especially satellite-TV sports packages).

The cost of owning an Xbox360 is really whatever the console costs, plus a few bucks for extra controllers and a game or two to start with. Same goes for the PS3.

With the PSP, it's a whole new story. Because the PSP's "features" really aren't about the gaming. Yes, the PSP plays games. It has some decently fun ones. But the PSP, to be fully enjoyed, is supposed to carry around a ton of extras. It plays music. It plays movies. That's what it does. Provided you have the time to dump your MP3's onto it (negligible) and are willing to spend the time re-encoding video with a free program (Sony couldn't be bothered to make one for you to use), it does those things rather well.

It just has one heck of a price tag.

See, it's not just the PSP you need to buy. You also need a hard-plastic case, to protect your PSP as you carry it around. The best one currently available is from Logitech, and has hard plastic on the outside and firm-fitting foam rubber on the inside. Sony ships the PSP with a soft fabric case, but trust me, it does NOT get the job done. Then, you'll need to buy a proper USB cable to hook it up to your PC and copy those files to it.

Oh, and then there's the big one; you'll have to buy a memory card. A very specific variety, the Sony Memory Stick Duo, which have inexplicably become very, very expensive recently. Depending on what you want to carry around, you need at least 512 MB if not 1 GB. If you want to haul any decent number of movies, 1 GB is your goal.

You *can* use other memory cards that have a Duo form adapter, but they'll stick out of the PSP when you're carrying it around, and you don't want to take the risk of breaking your memory stick.

512 MB will run you over $100 easily. 1 GB retails at $180. The total price of buying a PSP, then, can easily exceed $460 in total; you'll be able to do better buying an Xbox or PS3 or Gamecube, easily, since you'll be able to trade in your old unit to a store like Gamestop and buy a few games with your trade-in cash.

Add to that the price tag on the new games ($40+ for PSP titles) and the PSP is one expensive beast.

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Musings #39: Price Tags

Added:  Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf


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