October 10, 2013, 6:00 AM —
Sony has finally confirmed what I think many of us had already suspected: their original plan was to bundle the Playstation Camera in with the Playstation 4, in much the same way Microsoft is bundling Kinect with the Xbox One.
Plans changed when they couldn't hit what Sony Computer Entertainment senior vice president Masayasu Ito calls "the magic price" of $399 while bundling in the camera, according to Business Spectator. Rather than sell at too great a loss (even without the camera it is estimated that Sony is losing $60 on every PS4 it sells) they decided to make the camera an optional ($60) accessory.
Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House suggests that early in the life of the PS4 most buyers will be core gamers who aren't all that interested in camera peripherals anyway:
"Certainly for the earlier part of the lifecycle, the vast majority of the audience that we speak to tells us that their primary wish is for the full controller interface and there's not necessarily a huge emphasis being placed on camera interaction."
Business Spectator suggests that as the cost of the tech drops over the years we'll see the camera being packed in for the more casual crowd. I think they've got that right.
What Sony still isn't admitting is when they decided that $399 was the magic price. Many speculate that it was a snap decision intended to undercut Microsoft, but way back in July Sony's Jack Tretton told CNN Money that wasn't the case.
CNN: How early in the planning process did Sony (SNE) settle on the $399 retail price?
Tretton: You look at the feature set first. Then you look at manufacturing costs, and you're trying to manage P&L. You're trying to get to the most consumer-friendly price you can. The goal is to always get as low as you can without breaking the bank. At $399 we had a proposition consumers would respond favorably to. We honestly didn't know whether that was going to be more aggressive or less aggressive than competitors.
However it came about, I think Sony made a smart move separating the camera from the console. Not everyone is interested in motion, or even voice, controls, and forcing them to purchase something they don't want...well it doesn't seem to be making Microsoft many friends.
The flip side of the argument, of course, is that an optional peripheral is a peripheral that no game developer is going to support. I'm still not sure that's a bad thing. I'd prefer to keep both hands on my controller and not have to wave at my TV in order to interact with the game I'm playing.
That's my opinion though; I'd love to hear yours. Did Sony blow it by not including the Playstation Camera with every PS4?
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.