Monday, October 8, 2007

40GB PlayStation 3 Officially Announced by SCEE

The 40GB will be the cheapest PS3 yet, but no PS2 backwards compatibility will be the price to pay

Putting an end to one of the worst-kept secrets of the year, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe today confirmed the existence of a lower-priced 40GB PlayStation 3 model by announcing its availability across Europe, Middle East, Africa and Australasia starting October 10. The new model will retail for €399, or about 20 percent less than the 60GB bundle.

To help keep costs down, the new 40GB model does with only two USB ports, instead of four on all previous PS3 consoles, and no memory card reader. This falls in line with Sony’s filings with the FCC, saw only two USB ports tested with no mention of a memory card reader examination.

The now-extinct 20GB PlayStation 3 also was without a memory card reader – which on the 60GB and 80GB models read Compact Flash, Secure Digital and Memory Stick media – in the interest of cost savings. Unlike the entry-level 20GB, however, the 40GB PS3 appears to retain the same silver-trim bling of the 60GB and 80GB models.

Oddly enough, the new 40GB model is not compatible with any PlayStation 2 titles. Dedicated PlayStation 2 hardware was removed previously in a PlayStation 3 hardware revision, though machines still retained some backwards compatibility functions through software emulation. It is still unclear if the 40GB model represents a further simplified PS3 hardware specification, though that is likely the case.

Sony’s press release explained that the removal of backwards compatibility in the 40GB model reflects “both the reduced emphasis placed on this feature amongst later purchasers of PS3, as well as the availability of a more extensive line-up of PS3 specific titles.”

Sony UK boss Ray Maguire elaborated in an interview that the company would be “better off” diverting the funds for backwards compatibility into either investing in new games or further reducing the PS3’s price.

Maguire admits that the removal of all PS2 backwards compatibility “was a big decision... and we know it is a very emotive subject as lots of people think that backwards compatibility is high on the agenda and yet few really use it.”

SCEE spokesman Nick Sharples further added, “We have made clear on many occasions that our priority is on developing innovative new features and services for PS3 and not on backwards compatibility. The 40GB model no longer contains any elements of the PS2 chip set which powered backwards compatibility in previous models, and is therefore only compatible with PS one titles.”

Sharples added that the 60GB bundle will be price reduced for those who are keen in playing PS2 games on the newer system. “For those who consider backwards compatibility important, the 60GB Starter Pack with extra SIXAXIS controller, two first party titles and extensive backwards compatibility remains available until stocks run out. With a 100 Euro price reduction from 10th October, this model is a real bargain,” he said.

Sony’s opinion regarding importance of backwards compatibility differs greatly from that of before the PlayStation 3’s launch. As Joystiq points out, Sony Worldwide boss Phil Harrison said in a GamePro interview from 2006, “Backwards compatibility, as you know from PlayStation One and PlayStation 2, is a core value of what we believe we should offer. And access to the library of content people have created, bought for themselves, and accumulated over the years is necessary to create a format. PlayStation is a format meaning that it transcends many devices -- PSOne, PS2, and now PS3.”

The ability to serve as an excellent home theatre device, however, remains a part of the 40GB model. In addition to being one of the Blu-ray Disc players on the market, the PS3 can also make DVDs look better with the 1080p upscaling capabilities of the latest firmware.

Although PlayStation fans finally got their wish for the return of force feedback after Sony unveiled the DualShock 3 at the Tokyo Game Show, the new 40GB package will still include the SIXAXIS controller. The DualShock 3 is scheduled for availability next month in Japan, with North America and Europe releases planned for spring 2008.

SCEA has yet to confirm or deny the existence of the 40GB model for North America, despite the product already being listed in the inventory at several retailers and the UPC database for availability sometime late October.

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