Today, Sony executive Ken Kutaragi provided a business brief in Tokyo. Coined as the “father” of Playstation, Kutaragi was rightfully given the job of officially crushing PS3 and PSP rumors. While the interview with CEO Howard Stringer early last week gave official details of a Playstation 3 delay, it was not formal or even expressly stated. Today is the day for that, and much other Playstation news.
First and foremost was the confirmation of delay. Mr. Kutaragi apologized for Sony’s delay, stating what rumors had already been saying: a Fall 06 release due to Blu-Ray complications. He stated that the complications will result in a better HDMI (high definition output) support on launch day. He also specified the release date: within the first 10 days of November 2006. But, here’s the kicker… this is the worldwide launch. That means that Japan, the US, and Europe will all enjoy the PS3 within days of each other, all in early November. This is very good news, indeed, since I suspected the US date would be as late as Q1 2007.
Secondly, and where Sony always comes through, is that of backwards compatibility. Microsoft’s XBOX 360 only supports a few of the original XBOX titles, with some notable hits missing from the list. Also, it uses emulation to achieve this, meaning a small hit in performance. While the 360’s extreme power compared to the original makes this performance hit unnoticeable in old games, it is there nonetheless. Anyway, the PS3, as suspected, will be 100% backwards compatible with PS2 and PS1 games. This is a very attractive option to new gamers, as they will have Playstation’s ridiculously huge archive of games, including new ones, for just one investment. Also notable is the fact that when old games are played, they will be at high definition. XBOX 360’s emulation works much in the same way, but just supports less games.
On the topic of price, no official one was released at this time. What was announced, however, is that of price drops in current gen technology. The PS2 will not have its price dropped, as Sony predicts 10 million more units to be sold this year. However, which will be good news to all, is that the PSP basic package will be reduced from $249.99, to a much more appealing $199.99. This will hopefully, Sony predicts, influence more people to its new and ever-growing system.
Furthermore in terms of the PSP, Sony announced a new “E-Distribution System”, where you can essentially download playable content on your PSP. The first games to be released under this service are going to be original PS1 games. The fact that I will be able to play Final Fantasy IX on a long car ride is just too attractive to pass up: I cannot wait. I’m just hoping that Final Fantasy is indeed among the games offered. Finally, it was announced that an upgrade to the PSP’s browser later this year will fully support Macromedia Flash 6.0. That means playing Internet-enabled Flash games on the PSP… including the ones on this site!
The PS3 will also launch with a new online system. It will feature “matchmaking, messaging, rankings, friends lists, voice/video chat, in-game shopping, and game downloads to the hard drive. Best of all, the service will be free (as of right now, it isn’t clear on whether there will also be a paid tier of service similar to Xbox Live Gold). The service will also allow for publishers to connect their own game servers.” This basically means that you will be able to do anything you can do on XBOX Live!, only for free. Sounds good to me.
Among the release were also a few subtle statements that should not be ignored. For example, Kutaragi mentioned that the PS3 will act as a wireless access point for the PSP. While that is all he said, it can be inferred that it will also be an access point for other wireless devices. There was also mention of a 60GB hard drive with Linux pre-installed. However, the various sources I am reading disagree on this point. 1UP.com’s article states that “PS3 will include a 60GB hard drive (which is upgradeable) with Linux preinstalled.” However, GamingHorizon says, “Additionally, Sony has announced that the company’s next-generation console will “require” the 60GB, upgradeable hard drive; the HD will also support Linux. However, Kutaragi hasn’t confirmed that the PS3 will ship with a hard drive pre-installed (in fact, previous comments indicate otherwise – so either the console will ship with an HD or will require an immediate extra purchase in order to be played).” Considering the press release was in Japanese, things have undoubtedly been lost in translation. I venture to think the PS3 will include the hard drive. Otherwise, why would Kutaragi tell developers to assume a gamer has the HDD, or that the HDD is required? Only time will be able to confirm this.
In conclusion, this business brief is an excellent answerer of the many questions arising about the PS3. Now we pretty much know everything except whether or not it will carry a HD, and the price. Details on this will most likely become available in May, with the E3 convention. Also in May, Sony will distribute the “final” development kits to game companies. This should at least answer whether or not a hard drive is included. Sony may have missed their Spring 2006 release, but it looks as though the Playstation 3 will deliver on all fronts.
EDIT (03-18-06): It now seems that the general consensus among news sites is that the PS3 will indeed ship with the 60GB drive. This is very good news for Playstation fans. But here is the cooler thing: it will come pre-installed with Linux. If Sony pulls this off right, it could be the first real exposure home users get to Linux. So, if they do it right it may be a huge step forward for open source eventually taking control of the desktop environment.