Sony Computer Entertainment Europe has announced it will begin shipping a new 40 GB version of its PlayStation 3 gaming console in Europe beginning October 19 for €399. For nearly a year, Sony has been struggling to make its high-priced, Blu-ray equipped PlayStation 3 gaming console attractive to consumers; the company clearly hopes that by offering a lower-capacity version of the system at a more attractive price point, it may spur holiday-season buying and improve the system’s market share relatively to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s phenomenally successful Wii.
"The introduction of the 40GB model has been the result of extensive research into the entertainment needs and preferences of the next generation of PS3 owners," said SCEE president David Reeves, in a statement. "PS3 has always been the device of choice for the discerning gamer and entertainment seeker, and the new 40GB model is more than ever the perfect High Definition entertainment system."
The new 40 GB edition of the PlayStation 3 will include a Blu-ray disc drive, a wireless Sixaxis controller, Wi-Fi wireless networking, and HDMI connectivity. The new configuration lacks the memory card reader found on earlier PS3 models, and reduces the number of USB 2.0 ports from four to two.
Perhaps more significantly, the new edition of the PlayStation 3 is not compatible with any PlayStation 2 titles. PlayStation 2 compatibility has been a thorn in the side for Sony since the PS3’s introduction: original PS3s included hardware to provide PS2 compatibility. As Sony tried to reduce PS3 production costs, portions of that hardware were gradually replaced by software emulation, making the units less compatible with previous PS2 titles. Now, Sony is giving up entirely on PS2 compatibility in the PlayStation 3: PS3 owners will have to content themselves with playing only PS3 titles, which Sony says will number 65 by Christmas of 2007.
Sony says the decision to drop PS2 compatibility came from feedback from "later purchasers" of the PlayStation 3, who placed less importance on PS2 compatibility than on other features.
Sony also plans to fire-sale its existing stock of 60 GB PS3 units, offering a Value Pack of a 60 GB PS3 (with software-emulated PS2 compatibility) with two first party game titles for €499 "while supplies last." Once the 60 GB editions are gone, only the 40 GB PS3 will be available in SCEE countries.
There’s no word yet on when (or if) the 40 GB PlayStation 3 will launch in North American or Japanese markets—but given the PlayStation 3’s market position in both countries, industry watchers seem to agree the 40 GB PlayStation 3 are bound for markets other than Europe very soon.
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