With rumors of an impending delay swirling for weeks, Sony confirmed Wednesday (March 15) that it will push the release of the PlayStation 3 to November. The company had previously said the console would be available this spring.
At a press conference held at 3 p.m. Wednesday in Tokyo, Sony executives announced that the highly anticipated next generation PlayStation will be released in North America, Japan and Europe in early November. Sony has previously launched gaming devices in stages; earlier versions of the PlayStation and the PlayStation Portable were available in the Japanese market months before introduction in the U.S.
Microsoft attempted a similar simultaneous launch of the Xbox 360 late last year, but saw its efforts hampered by a severe shortage of available consoles. Sony executives announced Wednesday that the corporation plans to avoid a similar problem by manufacturing 1 million PS3s a month. Sony also confirmed that the PS3 will feature an Xbox Live-style online download service. According to a report from the gaming site GameSpot, Sony's chief of PlayStation business, Ken Kutaragi, indicated that the PS3's download service would be free.
Sony had been largely silent on the subject of the PS3 since the company unveiled the device at May's E3 conference (see "PlayStation 3 Will Let You See The Spit Fly Like Never Before"). At the time, Sony's demonstration of innovative concept game trailers and technical feats — such as the ability of the PS3 to display dozens of TV signals on one screen, or show action on two separate high-definition TVs at once — was seen as a gauntlet thrown toward Microsoft. At E3, Sony announced that the system would launch in spring 2006, though the company declined to specify where that launch would occur. It was unclear if a delay of the PS3 in Japan would result in a delay of the system's American release after the crucial end-of-year holiday shopping season.
But the company's silence since E3, combined with increasingly skeptical comments from third-party developers and publishers, contributed to widespread expectation of a delay.
According to a report from the Japanese Nikkei news service, the Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun placed the blame on difficulties Sony is allegedly having finalizing copy-protection technology for the Blu-ray disc medium used for the system's games.
Blu-ray is a new technology developed by Sony (partnered with fellow electronic giants Panasonic, Philips and Samsung)intended to replace DVDs as the standard for movie and game discs. A Blu-ray disc can hold 50GB of data, making it a more suitable format for showing movies on high-definition screens and holding more massive game data than DVDs, which can hold only a third as much information.
If the delay is indeed due to copy protection finalization for the Blu-ray, then Sony's decision to use that technology in its new machine will be severely second-guessed. A February report from analysts at Merrill Lynch estimated that the new Blu-ray technology could account for almost half of the $800 necessary to manufacture a single PS3.
That report prompted grave concern regarding the PS3's cost upon launch — though vigilant gaming-industry watchers may recall that analysts pegged the possible parts cost of Sony's PlayStation Portable at hundreds of dollars higher than the launch price.
More light is expected to be shed on the PS3 next week when Sony's head of worldwide game studios, Phil Harrison, delivers a keynote address at the Game Developers' Conference in San Jose, California.
Sony also announced Wednesday that the PSP will be available for $199 beginning March 22; the portable system had previously retailed for approximately $250. According to GameSpot, Kutaragi said Sony is developing a camera peripheral for the handheld device as well as a system that will allow gamers to download games for the original PlayStation onto the PSP.
Sony rival Nintendo has repeatedly stated that its new console, code-named Revolution, will launch in Japan and the U.S. before the end of the year.