Sony's PlayStation 3 pricing policy has long been grist to PC Advisor's internet rumour mill, but it's an issue that just won't go away.
Over the Easter weekend, UK retailers started dropping PlayStation 3 prices in an apparent bid to pique interest from recalcitrant gamers. There's no immediate suggestion that the price is going to go back up. (In the US, conversely, SonyStyle has taken the cheaper, 20GB PS3 off sale, citing 'market demands'. But then the American consumer is getting a much better deal anyway.)
Despite a 'record first week', PlayStation 3 sales have been sluggish in the UK. Potential purchasers have told PC Advisor that they're being put off from buying the console because it's too expensive – more expensive than in the US or Japan. Unlike PS3 consoles in those territories, the UK model isn't fully backwards compatible either.
Walk into any high street electronics retailer and you'll see no shortage of PS3 consoles for sale, hence the price cuts. But there's general agreement that the PlayStation 3 is a tremendous piece of equipment.
As well as an excellent games machine, it's a Blu-ray disc player. If this capability is important to you (and you have an HD TV and an HDMI connector), the PS3 might be a bargain to you, even at its list price of £425. (Having played with one, I think just about everyone would like to own a PS3, although they might want to keep it out of sight.)
So I have a suggestion for Sony. Instead of the outmoded 'we publish a price and the consumer pays it' model, why not ask potential customers how much they fancy paying for a PS3? I, for instance, quite like playing games and watching movies, but I don't own an HD TV, I'm scared of Mrs Matt and, frankly, I'm a tight git. So I'll pay about £250 (Sony can barter me up to £300 so long as the boss doesn't find out). Early adopters with deep pockets will probably convince themselves that a Blu-ray player with a massive hard disk and gaming capabilities is worth a fortune, and instruct their butlers to shell out a grand or so. And pensioners can proffer a rock cake, a war story and 20p for a nice shiny box to use as a doorstop/draft excluder.
It'll hit profit margins, or course. But Sony will be able to shift some PS3s, and then start the actual business of flogging games and Blu-ray discs. For which I will give it, ooh, a couple of quid and a ride on my bike.