You know you’ll want one...but don’t expect a bargain price tag

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In just a few months the Christmas shopping rush will be upon us once more – a none-too-subtle blend of crass commercialism, supreme dollops of hype and an opportunity to see in the new year with some extra debt slung around our shoulders.

While most of us are praying for a glimpse of spring, and are positively ravenous for a long, hot summer, you can be sure the strategies for our festive spending are already well advanced.

And this year there will be a shiny new addition to the gift list of young and old alike – despite its remarkably underwhelming recent launch.

Sony’s PlayStation 4 machine has plenty of weight piled on it shoulders; not least to deliver sufficient pots of money for its Japanese parent company in order to allow it to actually turn a profit again.

This in itself will be a challenge, by virtue of the fact games consoles are, traditionally lost leaders – the price of the hardware being sold for less than it cost in order to secure market share so you can flog them all the add-ons needed, such as games, controllers and all the other plastic items you will find littering a teenager’s bedroom floor.

Perhaps more significant, is the fact it enters a market which has lost so much of the vim and vigour it once boasted.

The launch of a video game console ten years ago would have excited the masses - and not just the cliched gamer with an itchy trigger finger. Today, it raises an interested eyebrow among the mainstream but not the zip of yesteryear. Think Robbie Williams as a comparison.

Because ten years ago we all had the cash to splash out on something which was of no real value other than injecting some fun into our lives. And if we couldn’t afford it, well, every shop was prepared to give us one and we could pay it back over the length of time of our choice.

Today, there’s a slightly more pressing need facing everyone – namely paying the mortgage, footing the petrol bill and shelling out an ever-increasing fortune to feed and heat a family.

Splashing out a few hundred quid in order to kill some zombies in a slightly more realistic way than before is a hard sell. Or at least it will be until the price inevitably tumbles to a more consumer friendly figure. But to do that, it must first post sufficient sales. A tricky and potentially difficult Catch 22.

Sony’s latest machine will, no doubt, ultimately be a big success. And it will inevitably be the must-have gift for Christmas 2013. Just be ready for a sharp intake of breath when they announce the inevitable £300-plus price tag and then join the queue to buy one.

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