Sony sees easing of PS3 price pressure

By Scott Hillis

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Recent strong sales of higher-priced PlayStation 3 models may be an indication that Sony Corp  does not need to cut prices of the flagship video game console soon, a U.S. executive said on Thursday.

When Sony lowered U.S. prices of the PlayStation 3 last November, it was surprised to see that consumers bought as many $500 models as $400 models, said Scott Steinberg, vice president of product marketing for Sony Computer Entertainment America.

"So we're seeing that the hard-core gamer is not afraid to throw another $100 at the PlayStation 3 because the value proposition is so rich," Steinberg told Reuters in an interview.

The main difference between the two models is that the $500 version has an 80-gigabyte hard drive, double that of the cheaper model.

"We're still in the phase of studying what this means for the potential roadmap for the year," Steinberg said.

Asked if that meant the pricing pressure posited by many analysts had not materialized, Steinberg said. "It's leading us to think so."

Sales of the PS3 lagged those of Nintendo Co Ltd's  Wii and Microsoft Corp's  Xbox 360 last year, with many analysts citing its higher price and lack of must-have games. The Xbox sells for between $280 and $450 while the Wii goes for $250.

But the PS3 outsold the Xbox 360 in the United States in January, and Steinberg said a lineup of expected blockbusters as well as the recent victory of Sony's Blu-ray technology in the high-definition DVD format war would help sales for the rest of 2008.

"On a macro level, we've got leverage to turn that into a trend. Whether or not it continues going in February, the way I look at it is us structuring the chess board to our favor, which is without question happening," Steinberg said.

"The year of the PlayStation 3 started in fall 2007, I think it will be an extended year, we are feeling positive momentum."

(Editing by Gary Hill)