Pricing hardware at launch is a tricky call. Demand for the product may never be higher, as novelty works its magic and thunderous marketing campaigns make themselves felt. A good time, then, to pump a few extra noughts into the RRP, and perhaps recover some of that titanic research outlay a little quicker. But just how far dare you push it?
It’s a question Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo will, of course, be asking themselves over the coming 12 months. Each has pinned its colours to an untried commercial quantity: Microsoft’s ‘controller-less’ peripheral Kinect purports to flatten the barrier between practised 360 owner and wary dabbler; Sony’s Move wants to upstage the Wiimote as the benchmark for motion-sensitive controllers; and Nintendo has bet the farm (or at least a few hundred acres) on the appeal of ‘naked eye’ portable 3D.
Right now, only the Move has a nailed-down official price tag, but analyst commentary and reliably indiscreet retailers have furnished us with plausible hints as to the other two devices. In the following feature, we consider speculations and reactions from North American and European sources thus far.
Of the big three, Nintendo can probably afford to be most at ease over the fate of its next piece of hardware. The 3DS is a perfectly timed, brilliantly considered device, tapping into all the buzz over 3D technology whilst sidestepping its two key downsides: colossal expense and the inconvenience of wearing glasses. Fold in the DSi’s familiar clamshell form factor and a few of its basic capabilities – touch screen, cameras, the classic button layout – and you’ve got a product that should take Nintendo’s already phenomenal handheld business to unimagined heights.
There have been no serendipitous Amazon listings for 3DS just yet, so all we have to go on are the thoughts of Lazard Capital Markets analyst Colin Sebastian, who anticipates a launch price somewhere in ‘the $249-$299 range’, which equates to roughly £168-202 and €201-241. If solid, this prediction puts the new handheld well beyond both the original Nintendo DS pricepoints of $149.99, €149.99 and £99.99 and the DSi pricepoints of $169.99 and £149.99 (we’re unable to source European data for the latter).
Given that the 3DS, for all its newfangled parallax 3D display, seems to be comparatively low-specced (Digital Foundry suspects it will offer ‘around the same horsepower as a Dreamcast, maybe in some respects giving PS2-level performance’) the tech-conscious may find this sort of figure hard to swallow. But that extra depth of vision, coupled with the playground-friendly ability to take 3D photographs, should win over hyperactive pre-teens and their parents in droves, and the presence of classic Nintendo platformers and arcade titles may carry the day among veteran gamers.