$299 PS3 Slim unveiled, existing console prices drop Aug. 19

GamesCom 2009: Thinner, matte-finish 120GB model goes on sale first week of September; 80GB $299, 160GB $399 starting tomorrow; new PS3 motion-control details at TGS; PSN to offer 100MB "PSP Minis" casual games; digital comics coming in November.

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COLOGNE--While GamesCom won't open its doors to the public until tomorrow, today may see the biggest news to come out of the massive trade show. This evening, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe has summoned reporters, analysts, and industry types to gather for its press briefing, initially believed to be three hours long.

The new PS3 Slim up close.
The new PS3 Slim up close.

While the briefing's runtime is now closer to just an hour, that gives Sony plenty of time to use the event to broadcast its PlayStation brand plans for the world. There has been much interest in those plans, fueled by a steady stream of rumors that the company will use GamesCom to unveil a cheaper, slimline model of the PlayStation 3. Speculation has been percolating about such a device since photos surfaced in May and was apparently confirmed this morning by product listings on US retailers K-mart and Sears.

As for the rest of Sony's conference, reports out of the UK indicate that the financially troubled electronics giant will use it to unveil its European PS3 video store. The television show and movie marketplace launched in North America last summer shortly after Sony's 2008 Electronic Entertainment Expo presentation.

The Sony GamesCom press conference is at a club called E-work, about 10 minutes out of town.
The Sony GamesCom press conference is at a club called E-work, about 10 minutes out of town.

[9:35] After a 30 minute delay, Sony has let people into the main hall. On the stage are letters that read "The game is just the start…"

[9:35] The room appears to be a converted German dance club, complete with house music playing over the speakers. Welcome to Cologne.

[9:35] So far, the stage is completely free of people. No one is milling about doing last-minute AV fixes.

A massive billboard directly outside the venue says
A massive billboard directly outside the venue says "watch this space."

[9:37] PA Announcer: The conference will start shortly. Also giving out general housekeeping rules.

[9:38] Back to the dance music, but not the dancing

[9:38] The first two rows of the audience are reserved for Sony staff. A good mix of Japanese, European, and American Sony employees.

[9:39] The stage is still very empty.

Everyone files in and patiently waits for the conference to kick off. The crowd is a mix of Sony employees, media, and business partners.
Everyone files in and patiently waits for the conference to kick off. The crowd is a mix of Sony employees, media, and business partners.

[9:41] No one seems to be handing out K-Mart flyers. Yet.

[9:41] Interesting Note: Outside the venue was a large billboard reading "Watch this space 18-08-09."

[9:41] Possible cover for a PS3 Slim billboard to be yanked down during the show?

[9:43] The wait continues. PA announcer continues to assure everyone that the show will, in fact, begin shortly. Really. No foolin'.

[9:45] It's a good thing Sony has provided such a pleasing screensaver to run on the JumboTron during this wait. It really would make a great screensaver on the PS3.

[9:45] Security is now milling about in front of the stage. Good sign?

[9:46] The teleprompter at the rear of the room reads simply "GAMESCOM." No word yet whether the opening speaker will speak or scream this first word of the show.

[9:48] Completely packed house settles as the music fades out and lights dim.

The opening video features a montage of Sony's key franchises, such as Buzz.
The opening video features a montage of Sony's key franchises, such as Buzz.

[9:49] Screen now playing opening montage: Modnation racing, God of War III, SOCOM PSP, PS Home, Ratchet and Clank, Heavy Rain flash by.

[9:49] SingStar store shown now.

[9:49] Showing clip of VidZone, music-video channel currently available on European PS3s.

[9:50] Video continues to show first-party Sony games with little in the way of new games or new footage.

[9:51] President and CEO of SCEE Andrew House in the, er, house. On the stage, to be more exact.

Andrew House, president and CEO of SCE Europe, takes to the stage.
Andrew House, president and CEO of SCE Europe, takes to the stage.

[9:51] He says the PlayStation brand prides itself on always changing and innovating.

[9:52] The original PlayStation revolutionized CD format in games, then the DVD format with the PS2. The platform has recently done the same for social games with Buzz, SingStar, and EyeToy.

[9:53] House continues to stress importance of creativity in PlayStation games as part of its overall business strategy.

[9:53] Now, what everyone wants to hear--numbers!

[9:53] The PS2 has sold 51.8 million in Europe and 138.8 million globally.

[9:54] PSP sales continue to grow at a healthy rate: 52.9 million globally, 17 million in Europe.

[9:56] The PS3 has a 10-million-unit install base in Europe, 23.7 million globally.

[9:56] The PlayStation Network has 27 million registrants worldwide, 11 million in Europe.

[9:57] The PlayStation Network has a 60 percent connection rate on the PS3, with 560 million content downloads to date globally.

11m SCEE customers have registered with the PlayStation Network, 27m globally.
11m SCEE customers have registered with the PlayStation Network, 27m globally.

[9:58] House now talking about Home. Apparently the technically still-in-beta service has been greatly enhanced since its initial launch last year.

[9:58] 3.3 million people use Home in Europe.

[9:59] House says Sony continues to add new content to Home. On average, people spend an hour with it at a time.

[9:59] House announcing new SingStar gamespace for Home.

[10:00] Cue SingStar gamespace video. The virtual joint features a jukebox and (natch) a dance floor.

Get ready to party with the SingStar PlayStation Home gamespace.
Get ready to party with the SingStar PlayStation Home gamespace.

[10:00] House also announces Audi-branded space in Home, for all the Top Gear types out there.

[10:00] Audi screenshot appears to be futuristic city, no further details given.

[10:01] Home players can now carry cameras, shrink themselves, and…roll dice? Are there virtual alleyways to get a game of bones on?

[10:01] PlayStation Network to roll out new features with new navigation and aesthetics.

[10:02] There will be new themes, a new area called What's New, and quick links from the XrossMediaBar.

[10:03] House announcing new video features for the PlayStation 3: BBC iPlayer in the UK, Spain rtve, ABC in Australia.

[10:03] PSN users can use PSN voucher cards next month: 20 euro and 50 euro denominations offered initially.

[10:03] They will be available in all major retailers starting in September.

[10:04] House announcing that VidZone is coming to all Scandinavian countries.

[10:05] Now playing video for PSN video delivery service, which is new to Europe after being live in North America for over a year.

TV catch-up services will allow customers in a number of European territories to watch shows they've missed on the box.
TV catch-up services will allow customers in a number of European territories to watch shows they've missed on the box.

[10:06] Videos available to rent or purchase in HD or SD, just like in the US. Will launch in UK, Germany, France, and Spain in November. More launch dates for other countries to be announced later.

[10:06] Will support the PS3 and the PSP.

[10:07] Viewers can use the same wallet system as the standard PSN.

[10:08] Digital Reader for the PSP to be released in December. Will start with a service called Digital Comics releasing new comics every month.

"What's that you say, sonny? The PlayStation video store is finally coming to Europe?"

[10:08] Spider-Man, X-Men, and Fantastic Four comics to be included in first round, with smaller publishers to be supported as well.

[10:09] Ira Rubenstein from Marvel Entertainment now taking the stage--rocking a leather Wolverine jacket.

[10:11] Rubenstein happy to be part of this agreement between Marvel and Sony, says Wolverine, Captain America, Iron Man, and the Hulk will be available.

[10:11] Rubenstein doesn't forget to plug Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2--due out in September y'all!

[10:12] Digital Comics video now being shown. Large roster of Marvel characters being shown, Civil War storyline pictured on PSP mock-up.

[10:12] Sony will announce more Digital Comics publishers soon.

Browsing through Digital Comics on your PSP will look something like this.
Browsing through Digital Comics on your PSP will look something like this.

[10:12] House now talking about big new PSP games.

[10:13] LocoRoco Midnight Carnival and The Eye of Judgment PSP to be playable on the show floor.

[10:14] House talking about smaller "snackable" PSP games. Oh boy, digital Lunchables.

[10:14] The solution: "PSP Minis."

[10:14] PSP Minis will be new area on PSN store offering smaller, cheaper games with 100MB size limit. Yes, the rumors were true.

Meet the new European PSP-3000 colors: turquoise, violet, and pink.
Meet the new European PSP-3000 colors: turquoise, violet, and pink.

[10:14] Aqua Panic Oasis is the game shown on the mock-up. Description shows "Lorem Ipsum" text used in design mock-ups.

[10:15] EA to release Sudoku and Tetris at launch, as it did on iTunes some time ago.

[10:15] PSP Minis service goes live October 1 and will have 15 games at launch, 50 by the end of the year.

[10:17] House announcing new PSP-3000 colors for Europe: turquoise green, violet, and pink.

[10:19] The green PSP will be bundled with Little Big Planet PSP, violet with the Hannah Montana game (as was in the US last month), and pink with an unspecified game.

[10:19] People who preorder Gran Turismo 5 on the PS3 October 1-10 will receive a free download of Gran Turismo PSP.

[UPDATE] Sony US has confirmed to GameSpot the Gran Turismo PSP/Gran Turismo 5 pre-order deal is valid in Europe only. EU gamers can also get the game for free if they register a PSP Go between Oct. 1-10. "The offer is not valid in all other territories," a Sony rep told GameSpot.

[10:20] EyePet will retail at €49.99 ($70.60), including the PlayStation Eye camera and game.

[10:20] Cue a new trailer for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. It's very slow-motion and dramatic and set to orchestral music. Wonder what wisecrack Nathan Drake would offer in this situation…

[10:23] French-born Heavy Rain director and writer David Cage now taking the stage to discuss…Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer. Quelle surprise.

Quantic Dream's David Cage reveals a brand-new Heavy Rain character.
Quantic Dream's David Cage reveals a brand-new Heavy Rain character.

[10:25] He announces a new character: Ethan Moore. Cage says the inspiration character comes from losing his own son at a store. But while Cage's son was found, Moore's son wasn't so lucky--his child was hit by a car and died.

[10:25] Moore is thus a distant and depressed character in the Heavy Rain story. Can you blame him?

[10:27] Feeling tremendous guilt and remorse, Moore decides to go after the Origami Killer after reading about his murders in the newspaper.

[10:28] Cage touting that all the footage he is showing is in-game, leaves stage to applause.

"How far would you go to save someone you love?"--Heavy Rain's new character.

[10:29] House greets the crowd once more.

[10:29] Newsflash: New PS3 motion-sensing controller details will be announced at the Tokyo Game Show next month.

[10:30] Cue motion controller tech demo footage of archery game, painting game, pinata-smashing simulator.

[10:33] Motion sensing controller will work with PS Eye camera. Haircut simulation shown as the fruit of this union.

[10:33] One last guest to take the stage.

Kaz finally reveals the new PS3 Slim.
Kaz finally reveals the new PS3 Slim.

[10:33] It's Kaz Hirai, president of Sony Computer Entertainment.

[10:33] Kaz talking about success of this year's E3, plugs Tokyo Game Show.

[10:34] Kaz saying GamesCom shows how the European market has grown so much.

[10:34] Kaz doesn't want to beat around the bush…

[10:34] Kaz announces new "shape and form" of PlayStation…

The new PS3 Slim being whisked away by white-gloved security.
The new PS3 Slim being whisked away by white-gloved security.

[10:34] Kaz reveals new PS3 Slim--surprise?

[10:34] PS3 Slim available first week of September worldwide. September 1 in the US, September 3 in Europe, Japan, and Australasia.

[10:34] Noticeably thinner, appears just as tall.

[10:35] The top has a matte finish--as shown in the leaked photos in May--and the sides are glossy.

[10:35] The PS3 Slim will be 120GB and will retail for $299 in North America, £249 in the UK, €299 in the EU, and ¥29,980 in Japan.

[UPDATE] The console will cost A$499 in Australia and NZD$629.95 in New Zealand, launching same day as Japan--Sept. 3.

[10:36] That price will also apply to all current 80GB PS3s starting tomorrow. In the US, the 80GB will be $299, and the 160GB will be $399.

[UPDATE] According to Sony Computer Entertaiment America CEO Jack Tretton, the price drop is effective "immediately."

[UPDATE 2] A press release says the price change begins on August 19, not today.

[UPDATE 3] Like the current PS3 models, the PS3 Slim is not backwards compatible with any PlayStation 2 games.

[10:36] The PS3 Slim is 32 percent smaller and 36 percent lighter and has 34 percent less power consumption than the current model. It will have all the same features and functionality as the current PS3.

[10:36] Kaz exits to roaring applause.

[10:36] House returns to stage, says new price and model will continue to drive momentum to new levels.

[10:36] Release date will vary by country but will be first week of September internationally.

[10:37] House now summarizing press conference.

[10:37] House thanks the visitors for attending.

[10:37] Conference has concluded--that's all folks!

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