Sony‘s PlayStation 3 is scheduled to go on sale in Europe March 23, but even as the company ramps up for the console’s launch, news comes that design changes to the PS3 for Europe may mean reduced backward compatibility with some PlayStation 2 titles.
In a statement, Sony said PS3 systems in Europe incorporate a "new hardware specification" and that the company "won’t concentrate on PS2 backwards compatibility," preferring instead to focus on PS3-exclusive technologies and capabilities.
The change in the PS3 specs comes as Sony looks to reduce production costs—and its per-unit loss—on the Blu-ray equipped gaming consoles. As part of its cost reduction moves, Sony has moved key compatibility functions out of comparatively expensive dedicated hardware chips and moved the functions into software. The result is a new system which Sony can modify can improve via software updates, but which will offer lower backward compatibility then PS3 systems launched in the U.S. and Japan, which can handle about 98 percent of existing PS2 titles.
Sony plans to have about 1 million PS3 systems available in Europe for the March 23 launch; Sony only managed to get one million PS3 systems to the United States within six weeks of launch. If the retooled PS3 systems are accepted by the European market, it seems likely that Sony will roll the cost-cutting production changes (and reduced backward compatibility) into PS3 units sold in Japan and North America. Although Sony has long touted backward compatibility in its PlayStation consoles—the PlayStation 2’s ability to play PS1 games being a key factor in getting many gamers to upgrade—Sony believes gamers are less concerned with backward compatibility in its next-generation systems…and, besides, if players want perfect compatibility, PS2 systems are still available and, unlike the PS3, they’re comparatively inexpensive, earn Sony money on every sale, and are still outselling the Xbox 360 (at least in the U.S.).
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