At long last, Sony Computer Entertainment has set launch dates and prices for its forthcoming Playstation 3 next-generation gaming console. The units will ship in North America and Europe on November 17, 2006, with a Japanese launch the previous week on November 11. The consoles will initially be available in two “clear black” configurations: a $499 edition will sport a 20 GB hard drive, while a $599 edition will offer 60 GB of onboard storage.
Although details of the Playstation 3 console have been generally known for well over a year, Sony officially spelled it all out at the eve of the E3 Expo in Los Angeles. The systems will sport a Blu-ray disk drive for playing Blu-ray movies and games on Blu-ray media, offer native support for a broad range of displays from standard NTSC and PAL televisions all the way up to 1080p high-definition displays via HDMI, AV, and digital outputs. The units will have gigabit Ethernet, Dolby 5.1 surround, 256 MB of primary memory plys 256 MB of video RAM, USB 2.0, MemoryStick/SD/CompactFlash support, plus wireless communication via WiFi (802.11b/g) and Bluetooth (2.0+EDR). And, of course, the PS3 will be fully compatible with games developed for previous Playstation models.
But that’s the $599 edition. While offering 40 GB less storage, the $499 edition will lack WiFi, the MemoryStick/SD/CompactFlash reader, and HDMI output.
Newly announced at the E3 Expo, however, is a new Bluetooth wireless motion-sensitive controller for the Playstation 3 which will ship standard with the system. The new controller is based on previous Playstation designs (rather than a boomerang-shaped prototype the company trotted out last year) and integrates a six-axis motion sensor system: players will be able to tilt and roll the controller to control motion or other aspects of games. However, the new controller lacks the vibration-inducing motors in Sony’s previous Dual Shock controllers, since the vibrations interfere with motion detection. The new controller also features larger L2/R2 buttons, slightly altered joystick tilt, and more sensitivity in the data the controller sends back to the game unit. In addition to Bluetooth wireless capability, the controller can also be used with a tethered USB connection with seamless switching, which might be handy if the controller’s batteries die in the middle of a major fight.
European pricing for the PS3 will be