Among the many news items in today's E3 2008 Sony Press Conference was the announcement that it will be introducing a new $399 80GB PlayStation 3. On stage, Sony Computer Entertainment America President Jack Tretton was upbeat about the console, saying it offered "twice the storage for the same price."
While such a proposition was attractive, Tretton also raised some questions by saying the console will have "the same functionalities" as the 40GB. That model has been the subject of criticism for its lack of backward compatibility with PlayStation 2 games and, to a lesser extent, not having media card slots. Tretton also omitted any mention of whether or not Sony would continue to manufacture the 40GB, perhaps at a lower price point.
This afternoon, Sony Computer Entertainment senior vice president of marketing Peter Diller answered several of the lingering questions about the new 80GB PS3. First, the $399 model will soon be the "de facto standard SKU" in North America, with all other models--including the 40GB bare-bones model being phased out. Dille said Sony has already ceased shipping the 40GB to stores, and is letting the remaining stock of the console clear itself out of the retail channel. He said Sony had no price cut akin to Microsoft's $50 discounting of the now-discontinued 20GB Xbox 360.
Secondly, Dille said the new 80GB will have the "exact same functionality as the 40GB model," and will essentially be the same console with a larger hard drive. That means that once the current 80GB PS3s sell out, no new Sony consoles will have backward compatibility with PS2 games. "Most of our user base that's worried about backwards compatibility has a PlayStation 2," he said.
[CORRECTION] As with all PlayStation 3 models, the new 80GB PS3 will play original PlayStation games, contrary to what this article originally reported. GameSpot regrets the error.
Check back later for GameSpot's video Q&A with SCEA VP Peter Dille.
[UPDATE] When contacted by GameSpot UK, a Sony Computer Entertainment Europe representative would not comment on whether these SKU changes would be reflected in the UK and in the rest of Europe now or at any point in the future.