Much has been made of Sony's ongoing supposed turnaround, and the Playstation 3 was supposed to play a significant role. But between the Sony battery fiasco and the multiple delays of the PS3 launch, the company's still treading water. Now, just as the PS3 is (finally) going on sale, an analyst report says Sony will lose between $240 and $310 on each unit it sells, even with its high starting prices of $500 and $600. It's common for game consoles to be sold at a loss at first, until economies of scale come into play and bring manufacturing costs down -- for instance, the same analysts say a year after its launch, Xbox 360 unit sales now likely generate a small profit for Microsoft. This means that companies have to make up the difference with game sales, and the huge loss on each PS3 means that it needs to get an "attach rate" -- the average number of games a consumer buys along with the system -- of 6. Analysts consider 4 to be high, and 3 to be the average rate, so Sony's got quite a challenge on their hands, particularly when you consider the high cost of the system, and the growing cost of games. Games for new systems are getting more expensive, and they continue to be developed for and marketed to the core gamer demographic, focusing on technological achievement over everything else. But is this an increasingly niche market? Nintendo's gone the other way, attracting a wider audience to gaming by keeping prices low and focusing on less flashy games with a lot of attention on the gameplay itself. Of course, its next-generation console, the Wii, is also out soon, setting the stage for an interesting tussle between the two strategies. One final footnote about the PS3: its second most expensive component, at $125 -- and apparently the one also responsible for many of the delays -- was that oh-so-awesome Blu-ray optical disc drive. All in all, the PS3 sounds like a masterstroke: delay the launch for an expensive component that nobody really wants anyway, and kill your margins even more in the process. Looks like we'll still be waiting a while for that Sony turnaround.
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