Why Does Portable Gaming Still Cost More Than Console Gaming?

If you want to buy the Sony Xperia play from Telstra outright, it will cost you $960. For that money, I could just about have two PS3s.

Sadly, this isn't an unusual experience. The Nintendo 3DS costs more or less the same as the Wii. If you decide to buy a shiny new iPhone, a lot of your games will be cheaper, but you'll be coughing up at least $719 for the device.

Yes, you can make an argument in the case of the phones that they're not solely gaming devices; they are also highly flexible communication/work/reading systems. And that is true. But you could also make the same case for the PS3: it's a Blu-ray player and a streaming entertainment delivery device, not just a gaming system.

For the Xperia Play in particular, $960 is a lot to pay for getting a better processor and some specific gaming controllers, no matter how great those controllers actually are. There are Android phones on the market for under $100, and plenty for under $500, and they will play the games in the Android market pretty sweetly. Tablet devices are also much cheaper than these kinds of phones. You can avoid some of the immediate fiscal pain by signing up for a contract, but that also leaves you stuck with the same device (and the same network) for two years or more.

On one level, there's nothing new about portable items costing more. I've been hanging around PCs long enough to remember when notebooks routinely had processors that were a year older but still cost twice as much. But you know what? That isn't the case any more. Notebooks are the dominant form of computing these days, and the price gap has all but disappeared.

The other unpleasant likelihood is that portable gaming devices cost more because the odds of people buying expensive games to run on them are much lower. Sony can subsidise the cost of the PS3 by assuming people will routinely splash down $50 or more for a game. That doesn't happen so much in the mobile world, where we've become accustomed to expecting sub-$5 prices.

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Comments

    Buying a brand new, just released, gaming gadget (3DS, Xperia) is almost always going to cost more than one established 4-5 years ago (Wii, PS3).

    If you want cheap portable gaming, you're doing it wrong. DS Lites are $99 now. PSPs in any flavour are damn cheap. Games for both of these are way cheaper than console games. Also you could buy some games for the phone you *already have*. Imagine that!

    Firstly with the Xperia Play compared to other Android phones - Sony always commands a premium, moreso in this case due to the Playstation branding.

    As for portable gaming compared to console gaming, I think it's simply that there has been no trigger towards cheap portable consoles. This may change with mobile gaming gaining popularity, but for now, companies know that consumers will pay a premium to take their favourite game franchises out on the road with them.

    I suppose we can only hope that mobile gaming has the same effect on the handheld gaming market as netbooks did on the portable computing market.

    Good question to inform the public but lazy answer guys.
    You use the example of new tech vs. old tech A Wii vs 3DS and xperia vs Ps3. The PS3 was equal to Xperia costing when it came out, the Wii has dropped substantionally. Manufactures need to reach critical mass till they can re-claim development costs. Basics of supply and demand will teach you about profit levels per unit + amount of units sold.
    Then you have the argument of initial high costs because they can (ask Trent Reznor on his thoughts on this).
    As to the handheld vs Bulky entertainment units, look at manufacturing costs. bigger does not usually constitute more expensive in the tech world it is the opposite. The cost of robotics for new lines and detailed components etc etc.
    The sub par android analogy is silly. I can buy just about any product in a range of prices and quality.
    The headline of this article is a good question and there is much to be explored on it for joe public to understand, it woudl be great to see you do an indepth article.

    Mobi city has the xperia play for $599 or Next G for $750. Telstra are just trying to gouge early adaptors. Their plans are ridiculous compared to the other telcos.

    Part of this pricing problem is the crazy Australian region pricing. Because we get all these added costs put on top for low selling unit items we pay a premium. The PS3 has sold well so the price comes down. By the time they sell enough xperia plays they will have a new phone out that surpasses it. even if it is just the xperia play 2.

    All that being said I think I will pick one up. Just have to find the cheapest option.

    The hardware costs associated with console gaming are also heavily subsidised and are oftwen (initially anyway) sold at a loss, which is recouped by the vendor through licensing etc.

    When you start to see Xperia Play games around the $90 mark, you might see a cheaper harware price point.

    If the PS3 had the majority of games going for 99c The console would probably set you back a couple of grand even today.

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