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£57 for a PS3 game: Why PSN's pricing structure is broken

Opinion: Sony has to fix the bizarre prices - before it's too late, argues PSM3...

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On top of that there's a mess of retail relationships. Each major film distributor or games publisher - especially Sony, as a platform holder - relies on actual, real shops to shift the consoles that drive software sales in the first place. Undercutting these physical outlets too heavily would be like slicing off a foot to stop yourself going bald.

Certainly, it would be a bad idea. Most frustratingly, no one will officially clarify why prices are so high - and who takes what percentage cut from the PSN price.

Sony, amazingly, claim to have no one who can speak on behalf of PSN. THQ, who experimented with PSN pricing and distribution via MX vs ATV Alive also declined to comment. At the time of writing, another prominent PSN developer is also blanking our requests for comment. Mysterious, indeed.

Yet none of these reasons really matter to the average consumer. The reality is these problems must be solved, or consumers will go elsewhere. OK, mid-sized titles such as Limbo, Joe Danger and Dead Nation - and the occasional bargain (Burnout Paradise Complete Edition at £23.99 is a steal) certainly help, but they're simply too occasional.

Valve's hugely successful PC and Mac distribution system Steam is a great example of how digital distribution can work. Things generally cost what you'd expect - new titles such as Deus Ex and Dead Island are up for £29.99, in line with or just cheaper than a boxed copy. But there are also frequent discounts and sales - real sales, ones that make you stop and think 'Oooh'.

On the front page at the time of writing, Modern Warfare 2 is £14.99 - half its regular price - while Far Cry Complete has a 75% discount. That's real temptation - not the brain shrug you do for two quid off an already stiffly-priced retro shooter on the Store.

A STORM COMING

Zoom

Admittedly, some steps have been taken. The discounts through PS Plus can be impressive, while the PSP Power Sale has thrown up a handful of bargains, including the Grand Theft Autos for £6.29 apiece (until the deal runs out and they go back to costing more than in the shops). But more is needed.

Vita's arrival next year will bring PlayStation Suite, Sony's new Android-compatible digital outlet. As a mobile-based, touch-screen, smartphone software retailer, Suite will be competing directly with iTunes, which frequently runs promotions during which games are made completely free.

While Sony tries to figure all that out, Apple will be ploughing ahead with iCloud, which - along with Steam and the streaming service OnLive - will be doing its best to make physical media obsolete over the next few years. The likelihood is it'll take longer than that (I'm scientifically guessing ten years) but the bottom line is it will happen.

The cloud is coming, and Sony must take control and break through - or fade completely out of sight.

Order PSM3 here and have it delivered straight to your door

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