A system at (approximately) $200 is inexpensive enough that it can be bought by most families, as a gift for a single person in wealthier families, and by gamers for one game.
A system at (approximately) $400 is too expensive for most families outside of the holiday season, is (probably) not going to be purchased as a gift for an individual person, and requires more than one game to interest most gamers.
A system at (approximately) $600 becomes (essentially) a toy for the wealthy ... most families will think twice about buying it, and gamers will wait for enough high-quality content to come out to justify the price.
It isn't that complicated and you see the pattern everywhere ... How many cars on the road cost $20,000 new as compared to the number of cars that cost $40,000 or $60,000? How many people buy the $2 name brand potato chips compared to the $6 bag of organic potatochips? Certainly there are millions of people who buy the priemium items, but most people just want something that gets the job done.
Edit: In North America a price drop to $400 would do wonders to selling more PS3 units but it won't cross into the mainstream until the price approaches $200 ... A risk Sony faces by dropping the price is that they could cause a price war they're unable to win.
300 bucks had pretty much been the standard for the launch cost of a brand new system.
As far as the economics go, a lot of families are making a lot more money today than they were in the 90s. How many families do you know that just get a 0% 60 month loan on a 30,000 or 40,000 dollar car? I see a lot of middle class families do that.
I also see right now a lot of middle class families buying 500-1500 dollar HDTV sets without blinking an eye. We're at a point in our society where a lot more people are willing to stretch to get something more expensive.
I agree with you, but I think there are a lot more people (even lower income) who are spending more than they should on non-essential things. It's America for you.
A prime example of this. I was playing Texas Hold em last night in a cash game I freqeunt. I literally saw one guy blow around 400-500 dollars easily, and I see him there every week.
I don't think half the people in that room can afford to be gambling, but they do. I make pretty decent money today and I know you do squirel. I told some of the guys I was playing with that I couldn't have done that. I play small and lose small. But most of the guys in there weren't even batting an eyelash about losing that kind of cash.
Just sayin, I think more than ever in our society people will stretch beyond what they can really afford. Even for a toy.