Sony Cuts Japan PS3 Price

TOKYO – The low-end version of Sony’s Playstation 3 will be offered at a lower price in Japan than was originally announced and will come with a high-definition multimedia interface in all territories, the company said Friday.

First marked at 59,800 yen, the low-end model will instead retail in Japan for 49,800 yen (approximately $410), a reduction of about 20 percent, Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi said in a keynote speech delivered at the Tokyo Game Show.

Moreover, he said, the less expensive models will now include HDMI output ports. HDMI’s “time has come earlier than expected,” Kutaragi said, conceding that the high-definition output port was considered extravagant when first announced, but necessary now as the adoption rate of HDTVs continues to grow.

The changes come just months after Sony stunned the crowd at the E3 games expo in Los Angeles by announcing Playstation 3’s price at $500 and $600 in the United States, making it by far the most expensive game console of any major manufacturer. (In Japan, the high-end model is referred to as “open price,” meaning that retailers can set their own price points for the hardware. When asked by Wired News if he had any idea what pricing structure the retailers were contemplating, Kutaragi said that he did not.)

Sony has staunchly defended the pricing, arguing the features and performance justify the cost. Friday’s price cut could be seen as a concession to critics as well as a recognition of competition with lower-priced rivals.

U.S. prices will remain the same, Sony Computer Entertainment America executives said Friday, but the addition of HDMI will include all territories. That could make the low-end model more desirable, despite the relatively high price. Kutaragi would not say how many of the 100,000 PS3 units that Sony will ship for the Japan launch will be in the cheaper, low-end configuration. But Kaz Hirai, SCEA’s president, said that U.S. retailers were “predominantly” choosing to order the high-end units. He noted, however, that this may change with the addition of HDMI to the $500 model.

The announcements promise to sharpen already fierce competition among console makers for supremacy in next generation gaming market. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is already on the market at $300 and $400. Nintendo’s Wii is expected to arrive Nov. 19 and will be priced at $250, making it the cheapest of three. Adding to the pressure on Sony, the Playstation 3 launch date was twice pushed back; it’s now expected to become available Nov. 11 in Japan and Nov. 17 in the U.S., a year behind the Xbox.

The high-definition multimedia interface, or HDMI, connects compatible audio/video sources (digital game consoles, set-top boxes and DVD players to audio and video outputs), to a high definition TV set. Originally, only the high-end model (which also includes a larger hard drive, wireless functionality, and slots for flash memory cards) was slated to feature HDMI.

Also at the event, Phil Harrison, head of Sony’s worldwide development studios, confirmed that PlayStation 3 will be region-free for video games (but not DVD nor Blu-Ray movies). Kutaragi went a step further, intimating that downloadable game content could also be region-free. “In that case, there would be no physical barriers, only language barriers,” he noted cryptically.

Although Sony revealed that games from the previous two generations of PlayStation would be downloadable on PS3 and run through emulators, company representatives shied away from naming a list of titles. Hirai pointed out that the downloadable game lineup would be determined in large part by the sizes of the games, noting for example that a 9-gigabyte PlayStation 2 epic would be an unlikely choice.

Kutaragi mentioned in his speech that games from the Sega Genesis and TurboGrafx-16 classic consoles would also be downloadable and playable on PS3, a feature shared by Nintendo’s Wii console.

He also announced that PS3 owners will be able to use their new gaming consoles to participate in the Folding@Home distributed computing project, helping to simulate protein folding and contributing to research into diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer.

SCEA representatives confirmed to Wired News that the Folding@Home would be available on the launch day of PS3.

News source: WIRED NEWS


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