At its Gamescom press event, Sony announced that it was going to offer an upgrade program for certain major titles: buy a PlayStation 3 game and you can upgrade to the PlayStation 4 version for a "significantly discounted" price. Sony did not announce what that discounted price is and now we know why. Sony Computer Entertainment UK managing director Fergal Gara told Digital Spy that the publishers will determine what discounts to pass onto consumers.
"The publisher gets to define that, actually. What will happen is, the PS4 digital file will be made available on the PlayStation Store - as it would be anyway - at launch, and the PS3 discs will be sold through retail," said Gara. "What the consumer can then do, for a premium to be defined by the publisher, is access the PS4 digital game and then provided they still have the PS3 disc, they will be able to play the PS4 version when they decide to buy the next gen."
"Time window and price window has yet to be defined. Time window is probably more business policy for PlayStation, perhaps, but the premium will be defined by the publisher."
So you have to hope that Ubisoft, EA, and Activision decide to pass the savings on if the PlayStation 4 is your system of choice. I admit, that getting any discount is a bonus, but the difference stings when you look that the competing offers for Xbox One.
Both GameStop and Amazon are offering Xbox One titles for just $10 when you trade in the same game for Xbox 360. The offers differ slightly: GameStop gives you a $50 coupon that works when you trade in the Xbox 360 game for the same Xbox One title, while Amazon doubles the $25 trade-in credit in the same situation. GameStop's deal is only good on Call of Duty: Ghosts, Madden NFL 25, FIFA 14, Battlefield 4, and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag; Amazon expands that list to include Need for Speed: Rivals and NBA 2K14.
Seeing GameStop and Amazon have the offer on Xbox One only leads me to speculate that Microsoft is possibly helping both retailers in some form. The company's already facing an uphill battle with the Xbox One's $100 price premium over its competitor and its previous bad PR, so it's operating from a position of weakness. That means it's doing everything it can to make sure that consumers choose the Xbox One this holiday.
On paper, Sony's initiative is quite different: you won't be losing your original PlayStation 3 copy of the game, just getting the PS4 version at a cheaper price. Some enterprising consumers could probably come out farther ahead depending on how deep publishers are willing to discount their games.
What Sony's system loses is that immediate, catchy "just $10 to upgrade" marketing jazz. Instead it's "maybe you get $20 off" or "it might be only $15 to upgrade." Definitely not the same sell to consumers, who will be in GameStop and on Amazon this holiday season. Once (if) consumers get over the price difference, the upgrade offers could push them towards Microsoft's console.
The lack of concreteness on the trade-in offer affects me directly: I'm purchasing Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag on launch day for PlayStation 3, my AC platform of choice. I'd like to be able to upgrade to the PS4 version with no muss, no fuss, and for only $10. As the situation stands currently I have to hope Ubisoft feels a twinge of kindness. Help me love your platform, Sony.
Have these upgrade offers swayed you towards Microsoft's platform, or do they not affect you?