People will buy into value, it simply needs to fit their price range, and the market's price range. Instead of the PS3 costing $800-$1000 to make, and being sold for $600, if it had cost $600-$700, and sold for $399, then there would have been little problem, besides the early games being of lesser quality than the 360. That problem would have been solved much earlier as well, because early PS3 sales would have been that much higher, that much quicker, and devs and pubs would have been forced to figure out cell and get their PS3 games up to par asap.
Obviously PS3 could not have been the same caliber of console for a lesser manufacturing cost, based on it's architecture, but simply leaving out BC entirely, would have probably done the trick and worked out fine if they would have pushed remasters of the most popular/wanted PS2 titles at the time like they have with PS4.
Multiple tiers is risky, but will become less risky over time. First it was tiers in terms of storage space, then mid gen APU and RAM, so a whole new performance model at launch seems like a possibility if they want to try it. I think out of all the possible options for a PS5, the best thing PS could do to appease as many as possible without stirring up the pot, would be to create a $600 ish console, focused on gaming much like PS4, and sell it for $399. While this is risky, it's nowhere near as risky as the PS3's cost/subsidy plan was. This should allow PS5 to last 5 to 6 years instead of 3 years like PS4, and then they can decide whether to mid gen upgrade or launch PS6. A PS5 in the year 2020 and a PS6 in 2026 seems to fit nicely I might add.
People usually know a products typical value, or the competitions, and when they see a 360 for $399, and then see PS3 at $599, they automatically assume their being ripped off. Most won't dive deep into everything the product is capable of, and even if they do, they usually don't understand how useful it is, or how to value it, so they play it safe and get multiple cheaper options.
I have a big family and my aunts and uncles were interested in getting game consoles and media players for my cousins back around 2006. At the typical family gathering, they asked me what I thought since they are not well versed I am the most techie of the group by far. They had done some research and thought a 360 and HD-DVD player was the best option. While I tried to explain everything to them, they just wanted the basics and an answer, which isn't easy when they are just hoping you'll agree with them since that would be the cheapest option.
Since all had PS2's, I explained that a PS3 would be the best bang for their buck, even if they had to buy two of them for separate rooms since BD players were crazy expensive back then. I also explained that while it was still up in the air, that one of the formats was going to lose and disappear and that my bet was on Blu-Ray to win and stick around. I gave my reasoning and while it was sound, they obviously didn't get it, since they all went out and bought 360's and HD-DVD players. Didn't take long before they were all useless due to the death of HD-DVD and the RROD.
Sure enough, guess who got blamed? Me. Apparently I steered everyone wrong somehow, even though many of them went out after and bought PS3's once they were much cheaper. Wouldn't you know it, when it came time to buy some new consoles not all that long ago, who got asked again, and who suggested buying PS4's, and what got bought? Half listened, and half didn't. The half that didn't, stuck with XB because of BC mostly, even though I explained it wasn't true full BC for every game and not directly off the disc, knowing full well many of them like myself, have a joke of an internet connection. Well most of them have traded in those XB1's for PS4's now, other than a few a Halo die hards that will never change brands as long as it exists, which is understandable.
People rarely listen and sometimes never learn. It's no wonder good help is hard to find these days. Why bother helping when not only do they not listen, but blame you for being right? Luckily since it's family that bond keeps everyone in check for the most part, including myself.
A lower price for PS3 would have made a huge difference, but then again, you would have to strip a bunch of value out. Get rid of B/C and the BR-Drive and it could have been $399.99, but the PS3 needed the BR-Drive to deliver the AAA exclusives, and at the time B/C was a standard on PlayStations. Had they not had B/C the outrage would have been just as big. Had they not had the BR-Drive, we would not have got the AAA exclusives that made SCEWWS a powerhouse of a publisher.
I think we will get to a point where people will understand that consoles come in a range of options to fit your needs, but I don't quite think the market is ready for it yet, at least at launch. I also don't think Sony has any interest in loosing money on hardware again. If they want to transistion the way their ecoystsem is viewed, and offer a range of devices, then I think having a base, a Pro, and maybe even another tier throughout the gen would help continue to condition consumers for this business model. It would also allow them to always sell each tier at break even or profit.
As for your expereince with your family, that is exactly what I had with Friends, Family, and Co-Workers. Like I said, they ask for a device with a list of features, I tell them PS3 has all of that, then they go out and buy a 360. Then they come back asking how to get their wifi to work, or hey I bought a Blu-ray like you were talking about, but the 360 won't play it. Then I explain that they need a Wifi adaptor, or a Blu-ray player, because 360 doesn't come with built in Wifi, and it has a DVD drive. Then they ask what is a good Blu-ray player, and I would say PS3, then they go, "well we don't need another console in the house", so they go out and buy a BR-Player that cost more than the PS3. Then 3D and Internet connected BR movies come out, and "hey how do you connect your BR for the online features, or how do you get 3D BR's to play in your BR player"?
It just goes on and on like that. I also had some people grab the HD-DVD player, but it got even crazyer. Back in the day I actually hung out at the store during the whole BR/HD DVD thing, and tried to help people out. Even after HD DVD had thrown in the towel, and I had proof, people would still tell me no, HD-DVD is the new format for HD TV's. At that point I gave up.
Now days I leave my tech debates to the boards. If someone asks me, I just say I don't know, you should research on Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc., and find the device that has what you want. I might chime in from time to time, when something is just way off from what they are looking for, but I have just tried to help to many times, and turned into the bad guy because they buy exactly the opposie of what I suggest, and end up hating. Better off to make no suggestion, or play dumb, then they might accidently stumble into the right thing, or at least your neutral when they come complaining.