Consoul's Blog Consoul Games: Playstation Business Briefing 2006

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Playstation Business Briefing 2006

Sony have unleashed a wave of new information at their Playstation Business Briefing in Tokyo today. It's about time too, as confidence in Sony (as reflected in their share price) was beginning to drop. Up until yesterday, Sony had stuck by their story that they were aiming for a (northern hemisphere) Spring launch for their next-generation console. Given that retailers still had no firm dates, developers had no final development kits, and the PS3 motherboards hadn't even started rolling off the factory floor, no-one in the industry believed them anymore.

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So they've come clean: PS3 has officially been delayed. As had been widely speculated, the delay was put down to "Blu-ray spec finalization". Playstation3 is now due for launch in November. Ken Kutaragi pleasantly surprised everyone by explicitly stating that PS3 would launch worldwide before Thanksgiving (which is November 23rd this year). After a "simultaneous worldwide launch" was promised for XBox360 (Australia is still waiting Microsoft!), many people may be inclined to take Sony's announcement with a grain of salt. Promisingly however, David Reeves, head of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe has since echoed Kutaragi's assurance, saying "We are absolutely delighted that we will be able to bring PS3 to gamers in Europe and Australia before Christmas". Unlike Microsoft, who weren't able to produce enough consoles to supply all territories at once, Sony plan to produce a million consoles a month in the lead-up to the launch and beyond, ensuring that supply channels remain filled. Their goal is to have six million PS3's shipped by the end of March next year.

Kutaragi confirmed that PS3 will feature an upgradable 60GB hard drive with Linux OS onboard to act as a home server for various kinds of media. PS3's "Playstation Network Platform" will be an online service not dissimilar to XBox Live, with lobbies, player matching, voice chat, and commerce features including bootable downloads. The online service will be available from day one, and will apparently be free. While no specific games were discussed, it was revealed that all PS3 games will be released on BD-ROM (Blu-ray discs) as an anti-piracy measure. 100% backwards compatibility was reconfirmed - the PS3 will display all games, including PSone and PS2 titles, in high-definition via HDMI output. Final devkits and contollers will be distributed in May, allowing developers ample time to tweak and polish games currently in development.

There was quite a bit of news on the PSP front too. Utilizing PSP's wireless capabilities and a digital camera add-on, PSP will exploit Video Over IP technology so that it can be used as a videophone. PSP software will also become available through an e-Distribution system and memory stick booting will be supported. PSone games will be available to download and play from PSP's memory stick via an official emulator. Of course, the PSP is still short two shoulder buttons and one analog stick, so the controls could prove problematic. These features are expected to be available by the time the PS3 launches. In the meantime, support for the popular Macromedia Flash 6.0 format will be included in the next firmware update.

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The white PSP and cheaper PSP pack (sans accessories) that were previously only available in Japan are coming to the western markets too. Forthcoming GPS and EyeToy add-ons for PSP were also discussed. Interestingly, Sony's own research shows that people most often play the portable system at home.

In typical fashion, Kutaragi made some vague marketing-speak comments about PS3 being "4D" and going beyond the space seen in PSone/PS2 games to become truly "live". He didn't miss the opportunity to congratulate himself on just how successful Playstation2 has been either. With more than 100 million PS2s and over a billion games shipped worldwide, there's no denying that PS2 has been a phenomenal success.

As informative as the meeting was, several questions over PS3 remain, with pricing, games and region-coding topping the list. Expect more details (and hopefully some playable PS3 games) at E3 in May.


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