Home / World Business
Mon, Nov 24, 2003 - Page 12 News List

Game-console war intensifies

OPENING SALVO As the holiday shopping season draws ever-nearer, Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft go head-to-head, slashing prices in a quest for Christmas riches


The opening salvo has been fired in the game console makers' war for Christmas dollars. Nintendo has lowered the manufacturer's suggested retail price by half for its Gamecube, now down to US$99.99.

The move makes the cube-shaped device significantly cheaper than its competitors, Sony's Playstation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox. Yet some critics are not impressed. They see the price cuts as reflecting the Gamecube's poor sales figures, not a position of strength.

Some 10 million Gamecubes have been sold worldwide so far. Nintendo had hoped to reach this benchmark no later than the end of last March, however. The fact that the company fell short of its goals led to rumors that the Gamecube was slated to be discontinued.

These rumors gained support when production was temporarily halted in August. The warehouses reportedly were full of product, but demand was low. Almost simultaneously, Nintendo head Satoru Iwata announced that a "fully novel gaming product" would be released in the spring of 2004.

Axel Herr, managing director of Nintendo, nevertheless offers reassurance for nervous Gamecube fans.

"The Gamecube has a future. This can be seen in all of the new games that are planned for release in the coming weeks and months," Herr says.

Herr believes that this shows that his firm has no intentions of abandoning its troubled child in favour of a successor. He did remain mum on the mysterious coup that the Japanese video game specialists are planning for the spring. "We have a general idea, but don't know any specifics. That said, if Satoru Iwata announces something that could revolutionize the media landscape, it could really turn out to be true," he says.

Gamecube fans have had other reasons to be worried about their chosen device: Several game manufacturers, including Eidos, which makes the Tomb Raider series, and Codemasters, which produces the rally simulator Colin McRae, have indicated that they will suspend development of games for the Gamecube. On the other hand, the firms never produced much software for the device even in better times.

Even more importantly, one of the key game manufacturers, Electronic Arts (EA), has announced that it will not follow the same path. According to Joerg Trouvain, EA's business director, "EA publishes games for all platforms. We will continue to support Nintendo's Gamecube." He also sees the Gamecube as having a future "because the market is large enough for three home consoles."

The competition is determined not to let the Gamecube's price drop cause it to make mistakes. "We have already planned our promotions for the Christmas season, and the massive price cuts for the Gamecube won't affect them," says Sony's managing director Manfred Gerdes. One such measure is a bundling of the Playstation 2 and the Eyetoy, a USB camera for party games. The combination package will cost US$199.95. Bought separately, the two devices normally cost US$260.

Xbox manufacturer Microsoft seemed similarly unconcerned about the Nintendo move. PR manager Boris Schneider-Johne felt that there was no call for a similar price cut on the Xbox. His firm has plans to put together some sort of bundle for the Christmas season, likely with a family-friendly jump-n-run game, costing in the range of US$250. Such a packet would consist of the console with one controller and two games. Given that games cost US$60 on average, that represents a savings of US$70.

This story has been viewed 3836 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top