Sony boss Ken Kutaragi kicked off the PlayStation Business Briefing 2006 conference in Tokyo earlier today with the following statement: "It is my aim to clear things up about the PlayStation 3 today. The PS2, the PS3, the network, and Future Cell Network, this will all be addressed."
The hastily organised special conference was arranged for 3pm today (Tokyo time) following on from rumours of an official PS3 delay announcement in Japan’s business press yesterday. Commentators noted how Kutaragi played the event much like Apple’s Steve Jobs, drip feeding bits of information out, saving ‘the best’ till last. Seems like everyone wants to copy Apple these days.
Full reports on new PSP features and accessories to follow shortly, but firstly, the most important question: when will the PS3 launch? Mr Kutaragi assured the attendees at today’s press conference that there will be a worldwide ship this coming November.
Yes, that’s worldwide – meaning Asia, America and Europe. Meaning that it is still possible, according to Sony, that you may well be playing your own PlayStation 3 this coming Christmas. This is sure to kick-start much discussion about the feasibility of this strategy in practice.
Additionally, Sony plan to release one million units per month after launch, with a total of six million units planned for to be shipped by the end of March 2007. These planned production numbers are higher for PS1 and PS2 in their initial years.
One cynical wag in the SPOnG office commented earlier on first hearing the news: “I mean, I'd like one for Christmas. But a November ship means Xmas shortages in three territories. Plus that announcement is just to spoil Xbox 360's Xmas in Europe. PS3 will not launch here until next March/April.”
You can of course let us know your own thoughts on this matter in the forums below. Back to the SCEI party line, David Reeves, Big Boss of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe told the BBC this morning that: "We are absolutely delighted that we will be able to bring PS3 to gamers in Europe and Australia before Christmas… This is an exciting first for Europe, and is a huge endorsement and vote of confidence in the strength of the European market and its importance globally."
In a press release just sent out across Europe in the last hour the company announced: “PS3 incorporates the final specifications of BD (Blu-ray Disc), and with the overwhelming computing power of PS3, it enables to playback BD software at a high bit rate. With a maximum storage capacity of 50 GB (dual layer) and robust security, BD is a highly anticipated storage medium that delivers digital entertainment content such as games and movies at an unparalleled level of image quality…. PS3 is compatible with a vast lineup of television sets currently out in the market, from standard-definition TV to full high-definition TV…. Users can also connect PS3 to high-speed broadband network through Gigabit Ethernet and comfortably enjoy a wide-range of rich and exciting content and services over the network.”
Technically, Kutaragi announced that the PS3 will be "100% backwards compatible," and that "all legacy titles played on the system will be displayed at high-definition resolutions," similar to the Xbox 360's backwards compatible upscaling.
The PS3’s hard drive "will be 60GB big, be completely upgradeable, and support Linux OS” plus “will act as a home server and allow users to store various forms of media to be pulled up elsewhere." It hasn't yet been made clear if all PS3 systems will come bundled with a hard drive. SPOnG expects that this will be the case, and we will be very surprised otherwise, but watch this space for confirmation.
Of course the delay till later in 2006 has been widely expected for some time and is largely due to hold-ups in BD commercialization and issues with the copy protection system for BD and the competing HD DVD, (the Advanced Access Content System - AACS) which is being developed by a group of eight companies: IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba, Disney and Warner Bros.
Kutaragi assured the huddled masses in attendance that "all PlayStation 3 games will ship on Blu-ray to help prevent piracy," with initial BD-ROM production expected to reach 2.5 million in Japan and Europe and 5 million in the US.
Next up, and here is where things get a little more interesting and ‘imaginative’, we get some details on the PS3’s online service and the fact that PS3 games will be 4-dimensional. Yes, Sony just invented a whole new dimension!
The PS3’s online offering "will feature community tools including lobby matching and voice chat…. “ and “commerce features that includes bootable software via the hard drive." It will also act as a wireless hub for PSP. The ‘basic’ online service will be provided free of charge. Few details on the paid-for service as yet. Watch this space.
Kutaragi then went on to say that the "games are 'live' and that the PS3 concept is '4D,'" contextualising this with a potted-history of console titles which Kutaragi sees as going "from 8-bit to 16-bit planes, to the 'space' that you saw on the PS1/PS2, and now PS3 [which] will be 'live.'" Two words. Emotion Engine.
Well, on that bombshell. Sony it seems have not only invented an amazing new games machine, they’ve also invented a whole new dimension
. Comments and ideas as to what the PlayStation 3’s fourth dimension
could be in the forums below please.
As another SPOnG wag opined earlier: “The unfortunate thing is this 4D stuff works! I can already hear the kids talking about it on the bus – ‘It's fuckin' 4D innit!’”
Final full-spec PS3 dev kits will be shipping out to production houses in June. These will include the final specs for Cell, the final RSX graphics chip, the final Blu-ray specs, and will be at a cost close to that of a PS2 development kit. 15 different companies will be making SDK tools and middleware for the PS3.
No news on software and no confirmation on pricing as of yet, both of which will hopefully be unveiled at GDC next week in Phil Harrison’s keynote speech 'PlayStation 3: Beyond the Box'.