Last month, FCC filings indicated Sony was planning a version of its PlayStation 3 game console with an 80 GB hard drive—although the company went to some lengths at the time to deny rumors of any impending changes in its PlayStation line. Scarecely two weeks later, Sony announced it was discontinuing the 20 GB version of the console in North America (and they never ever bothered to ship it to Europe). Now, Sony isn’t confirming that it plans an enhanced version of the PlayStation 3 with increased storage capacity, but notes that aside from swapping out core components—the Blu-ray drive, the Cell processors, RSX, and networking—"addition and deletion is quite possible."
The comments come from Sony Computer Entertainment spokesperson Satshi Fukuoka at an Sony Corporation earnings report held in Tokyo. Fukuoka characterized the cancellation of the 20 GB model as responding to consumer demand: "It’s in line with our strategy as we had planned to choose models based on consumer needs," Fukuoka said. "For users who vigorously store (games and other content) in the PS3, 20 GB is probably going to be too small, and even 60 GB may not be big enough eventually. We are not likely to change its core components and functions[…]but outside that realm, addition and deletion is quite possible," Fukuoka said.
Sony’s discontinuation of the 20 GB PlayStation 3 leaves only the $599 60 GB edition available to consumers; however, Sony claims the 60 GB edition accounted for about 90 percent of PS3 sales. In addition to increased storage capacity, the 60 GB edition also features chrome time, integrated Wi-Fi wireless networking, and a more sophisticated media card reader.
The cost of including advanced features in the Sony PlayStation 3—even at its high list prices—are leading Sony’s game unit toward a loss of over ¥200 billion (about $1.7 billion USB) for the fiscal year ending March 31, making the game console a significant dent in Sony’s overall earnings growth. However, given how storage costs decline across the computing industry, it’s not clear how Sony would benefit from including an 80 GB drive in a PlayStation 3; the company may be waiting until its Home virtual world launches later this year, and rolling in additional features to justify a new higher-end entry in the PlayStation 3 line…perhaps sporting a 120 GB or larger hard drive.