The notoriety of the failed nostalgia cash grab strikes once again, as prices for the PlayStation Classic drop once again. Last week, a limited-time sale dropped it all the way down to $25 at Best Buy and Amazon.
This development comes at the surprise of perhaps absolutely no one. The PlayStation Classic, unlike its far more successful brethren from Nintendo, missed its mark hard and failed on its attempt to cash in on the retro-console craze.
Concept wise, the idea of a retro-console is straightforward. Just recreate a miniature version of the console, slap a few licensed games, and presto! A money-generating concept out of thin air. The massive success of the Classic NES and SNES further fueled the concept’s validity, and this perhaps sparked some light bulbs at Sony’s marketing department.
Unfortunately, it would seem that the company failed to understand the idea altogether, and released the PlayStation Classic with some very glaring flaws.
First, and the most noticeable, is the lack of viewing adjustment options. Unlike the two Nintendo Classic consoles that have a variety of backgrounds, screen options, and other stuff, the PlayStation Classic only opted for the standard PSX interface, and nothing else. Like, absolutely nothing else.
Second, the game roster was, to put it mildly, very lacking, and underwhelming. None of the actual classic games such as Tomb Raider, Spyro, or even Crash Bandicoot, which introduced the unofficial PSX mascot at the time, were in the list. A few of the title choices were also quite questionable, such as Mr. Driller, as these were not as popular at the time during the PSX’s gaming era.
Third, the PlayStation Classic lacked any kind of analog controller support. Though this may be an issue of mere preference, the PSX was most famous for introducing the dual-stick setup to regular console controllers. Aside from its historical value, it would have also been more convenient for other games that supported it, had it been implemented for the retro-console.
Lastly, a mix of NTSC and PAL games were included in the system, instead of standardizing it to one video standard. This created a bizarre situation where some of the games were emulated at 50 instead of 60 Hz, resulting in slightly slower dialogue progression, off-sync in-game timers, delayed sound cues in some games, and overall just time-consuming gaming experience for those who were used to playing a specific game’s NTSC version.
Even as the PlayStation Classic was reviewed by many before its official release, opinions about the retro-console as a whole were already highly negative. Adding further fuel to the fire was the astounding $100 initial price, which was way higher than the introductory costs of the NES Classic ($60) or SNES Classic ($80).
In the end, Sony’s falsely hyped retro-console was released to mediocre fanfare on December 3, 2018, selling only 120,000 units in Japan on its first week. In comparison, the NES Classic and SNES Classic sold 260,000 and 370,000 units respectively on its first week, also in Japan.
The relatively low sales plus poor reception of the retro-console prompted many sellers to lower its price in the next following months eventually. The first report came in February 2019, when a limited-time sale dropped its costs in the US at $40. It then hit even lower at $30 as June kicks in. Before June ended, the price yet again went down to the reported limited promo price of $25.
The series of discounts and price drops occurred in about sevens months after the PlayStation Classic’s release. This was a clear reminder to us, and perhaps to Sony as well, that retro-console cash grabs are not as simple as they seem. They do not merely work by slapping some games and fitting it into a miniature package, hoping that nostalgia alone would generate cash.
As demonstrated by the NES Classic, it takes a good amount of service and dedication to its fans, for the product to be appreciated well.
To be fair, NES has quite the status as the more prominent historical gaming console. But it probably wouldn’t have been accepted as readily, if it didn’t have all the varied options that it had. Or if it didn’t have a robust gaming lineup that genuinely represented the best of what the console had during its heyday.
At its current rate, it is unknown if another discount promo is set to lower the PlayStation Classic’s price even further. Though, if it already went down as much as it did last week, we might have to update that announcement very soon.