Ars Technica has looked at the prices for some classic consoles and has adjusted for inflation to show how much they would cost in today’s money, and the results are surprising: outside of a few outliers, the prices for game consoles are actually more or less the same as they were in the 80’s or 90’s, and they’re actually substantially cheaper than the systems released in the 70’s.
The PS4 is launching at the lowest price of any Sony console ever: taking inflation into account, the PS1 (released in 1995) sold for the equivalent of $459, the PS2 (2001) was the equivalent of $405, and the PS3’s infamously overpriced original $599 price tag from 2006 is now equal to about $700. The Wii U’s $350 price is higher than the Gamecube (which has the cheapest launch value of any stand-alone console) and the N64’s adjusted values, but it’s about the same value as the SNES was at launch and it’s substantially cheaper than the original NES. Microsoft’s Xbox One is still their most expensive system, but after inflation it’s only slightly more costly than the Xbox 360 was at launch.
Even the Xbox One is cheap compared to some of the older systems though: the Panasonic R.E.A.L. 3DO is the king of overpriced consoles, as the system’s original $700 price from 1993 is now the equivalent of over $1,100 dollars. SNK’s Neo Geo AES comes in at just $10 less than that, which isn’t surprising considering that the system was marketed as a sort of “premium” arcade experience AES games also cost upwards of a hundred dollars each.) The Intellivision, released in 1979 for $300, is history’s third most expensive console, as after more than 30 years of inflation, the Intellivision’s reasonable sounding $300 pricetag actually comes out to be about $850.
When you take inflation into account, most of the major consoles have launched at a price that’s the equivalent of between $300-$500.
You can read a more detailed analysis of console launch prices, price drops, and income growth vs. inflation over at Ars Technica.