Sony drops PS3 bombshells

Over the past few weeks major announcements regarding the Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) have been made. Thus far Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) has scheduled a release time-window, an online service and more.

Of the three console manufacturers, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, Sony has been the most mum on information relating to the successor of its PlayStation 2 (PS2); that is until now.

Rumors and speculation were put to rest  on March 15 at a Tokyo press conference where Sony confirmed that the release date was pushed back to a worldwide November launch. According to SCE President Ken Kutaragi, the postponement was because of copyright-protection issues.

A November release date will give Microsoft an entire year’s head-start on Sony since the Xbox 360 was released last November, despite shortage problems.

There are whispers, however, that say the PS3 was also delayed because Sony simply wasn’t fast enough to get the necessary development tools into the hands of developers. Developers will be receiving the PS3’s compiler, needed to convert programs into a language the console can understand, this month.

At the conference Kutaragi said that the PS3 would require a 60GB 2.5-inch hard disc drive (HDD) to function and reported that he told game makers to develop with the HDD in mind. At the time the inclusion of the Linux-based HDD with the sale of the system was not confirmed.

It was confirmed, however, on March 20 that the detachable HDD will ship with the console. The HDD, Cell processor, Blu-ray drive, and cutting edge graphics card has raised concerns as to the system’s price at launch. If it were to ship today and Sony wished to match the 360’s price point of $399, they would lose an estimated $1 billion during the first year the console is on the market since the system costs roughly $495 to produce–before labor costs.

Such reports could mean that the hardware giant may charge upwards of $399 in order to cutback on losses from system sales.

SCE also unveiled the PS3’s centralized online gaming service, tentatively named PlayStation Network Platform (PSNP). While the PS2 led the Xbox in sales, Xbox Live was the most comprehensive and uniform service of the two. PSNP will coincide with the system’s launch and for the most part will be a mirror image of the Xbox Live service, with features such as matchmaking, content download, video/voice chat, leader boards, etc.

Two major differences, however, is that the service will be free and licensees will be able to connect their own servers to the PSNP; whereas on Xbox Live, all of the servers are managed by Microsoft.

Although many analysts believe that Microsoft’s year-long advantage over Sony will prove to be the key to their success, the race to 10-million units sold worldwide is still very open to both conglomerates.