PlayStation VR and Tricky Marketing Tactics

Originally published on Trevor Trove on March 18, 2016

Imagine this.

June 10th, 2013 – during their E3 press conference, Microsoft comes out there and announces that the brand new Xbox One will cost you $399.99 (instead of the $499.99 price they actually announced).

With that slight change in messaging, the conversation of that day changes from “PS4’s Price and Policies Humiliate Microsoft’s Xbox One at E3” and shift to a narrative. Both consoles now cost the same. Sony probably still wins the day thanks to their focus on gamers, but it’s not the complete blow-out we actually witnessed that day.

And then a few days later, Xbox casually announces that while people will not be able to pre-order the Xbox One by itself, they can get the Xbox One with Kinect Bundle for $499.99.

That’s pretty much exactly what Sony has done with the newly announced PlayStation VR Launch Bundle today.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that my prediction from Tuesday was right on the money: a $500 bundle that includes the headset, camera, and two Move controllers (they even threw in the PlayStation VR Worlds collection of tech demos to boot). But the fact that they explicitly state “The core PS VR bundle, which has a suggested retail price of $399.99 USD / $549.99 CAD, is not available for pre-order,” makes Tuesday’s original announcement seem like that much more of a bait and switch.

Of course, as I said in my response to the news Tuesday, the real reason Sony is going to win this race is thanks to the fact that even with these extra costs, the cost of the PlayStation 4 to power the thing is substantially less than the cost of a PC to run the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.

This response is more directed at the knowing deception of that original announcement. They very easily could have announced all of these pieces during the initial presentation on Tuesday, but instead they deliberately downplayed the cost by mentioning only the Headset price. Imagine if, instead of announcing the Rift pre-order cost of $600, Lucky Palmer had gone out there first and said, the Headset will only cost you $400. And then a few days later, he came back to announce a bundle that would also include the controllers and a few games for $600.

When it was initially revealed that there would be be a bundle of this nature, it seemed to come prematurely with some presumable hemming and hawing from Shuhei Yoshida and a Sony repesentative. At least that’s how I read it:

In an interview with PlayStation’s worldwide head of studios Shuhei Yoshida, he told Tech Insider that there will be a bundle in North America that comes with a PlayStation Camera and a PlayStation Move motion controller.

“There will be a bundle in the SCEA region [North America] with Move and a Camera,” a rep sitting in on the interview told Tech Insider (after much cajoling from Yoshida himself).”

Personally, I don’t need the Camera, and the Move controllers are cheap enough on their own that, if I end up needing them, I’ll probably be willing to just buy them a la carte. I hope Sony will reconsider giving consumers that option with the Headset in advance of the October launch, as well.

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