Wednesday, March 29, 2006

GAME ON: PS3 delay and more

Time once again for my monthly gaming column. This ran in the Patriot-News last Sunday and focused on the recently announced PS3 delay. Have at.

By now, you’ve heard that the Sony’s next-next-gen console, the PlayStation 3, has been delayed until November.

Originally, the system was supposed to arrive in stores sometime this spring (at least in Japan), but finalizing the standards for the Blu-ray DVD technology buried inside the machine proved more time-consuming than the company expected.

As a result, the console will be released worldwide Nov. 11 at a price that Sony claims will not be "any less than $425."

No doubt there were many who were disappointed in hearing the news of the delay, but to anyone who had been following the PS3’s travails, the news only confirmed what was anticipated.

"I think it was kind of expected. We were being set up for it," said Kimi Matsuzaki, community manager for the gaming news Web site "It didn’t come as a surprise to anybody."

More interesting than the news of the delay is the fact that Sony plans to launch the console globally, even though it will have only one million units to ship initially. The company plans to pump out a million consoles a month thereafter.

There’s no way that supply can meet the demand with those few consoles, meaning consumers can expect a catastrophe of Tickle-Me Elmo proportions.

The shortage might actually be good news for Sony because, as Matsuzaki said, "a big shortage makes the console the big item to find this holiday season."

In other words, expect to see lots of news stories about long lines, irate parents, fights in stores and sky-high bids on eBay.

Of course, what’s good for Sony is not necessarily good for the consumer. Gamers bitter over last year’s Xbox 360 shortages — some of whom only just got their pre-orders filled — might be more than happy to hold off a PS3 purchase in favor of more titles for their Xbox 360 or Nintendo’s upcoming console, the Revolution.

Then again, hardcore gamers might be more than happy to play the waiting game in order to be the first on their block with a new piece of hardware.

"The mind-set of early adopters is to get it as early as possible," Matsuzaki said.

The key factor will be the PS3’s initial lineup of games. If PS3 developers can produce at least one or two compelling, must-have titles by November, then Sony could ideally divert attention away from Nintendo and Microsoft, who, by that point, should have a impressive list of 360 games in stores.

Judging by the launch line-ups of past consoles, however, that’s a pretty big if.

Other Sony disclosures

Sony also had some interesting revelations about its PlayStation Portable this month.

Last Thursday, the price of Sony’s hand-held dropped from $249 to $199, though the cheaper version doesn’t include such amenities as a memory stick, headphones and a slipcase.

The company also revealed it plans to release a snap-on EyeToy camera and an emulator that will allow owners to download and play PSOne games like "Final Fantasy VII."

Considering the dearth of PSP games out there, this is welcome news.

A new game site

Speaking of, it’s about to unveil a new site,, which went online last Monday.

In addition to the usual trailers of new and upcoming games, the site will feature interviews with industry insiders, walkthrough guides, tournament footage and user-submitted videos.

The site will have original programming, including podcasts, and "classic" commercials for antiquated hardware like the Commodore 64.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2006


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