Today in Germany, Sony dropped some game-industry bombshells at its press conference at the 2009 GamesCom expo. Chief among them is the new PS3 Slim due out next month--a new version of the PS3 that's lighter, consumes less electricity, and, most importantly, is cheaper, at a price of $299 US, €299 in Europe and £249 in the UK. The current PS3 models each had $100 shaved off of them: effective tomorrow, the 80GB PS3 will be $299 and the 160GB PS3 will be $399.
In addition, the company announced new online service features and new developments for the PSP, including a comic-book reader application and a brand-new format for PSP games: PSP Minis. These cheaper, "snackable" games must be under 100MB and will be sold only via download, with the first titles being Sudoku and Tetris from Electronic Arts.
To make sense of the news avalanche, GameSpot editors now offer their gut reactions to Sony's announcements--and how they'll affect the now-white-hot console wars.
Ricardo Torres | Editor in Chief
Ready to rumble...finally.
It's nice to see Sony coming to the party with a price cut and a really solid hardware configuration. The new PS3 slim announcement, although not the best-kept secret in the world, along with the other bits of info Sony gave out at its German press conference, is showing the fighting spirit people have been expecting for a while. The global price cut, the new PS3, and the PSP Minis were all good to see.
The PS3 price cut makes a direct comparison between the PS3 and Xbox 360 easier, which should make things interesting later this year. At this point, the PS3 looks like a better deal on paper, with built-in Blu-ray, built in Wi-Fi, and a 120GB hard drive you can upgrade if you want. On the other hand, the Xbox 360 has Xbox Live and Marketplace, which still overshadow the PlayStation Network in terms of content. So we'll just see how this plays out by the end of the year. There are lots of really good reasons to buy a PS3, so personal preference (and probably several boatfuls of marketing dollars) may be what determines which system winds up winning the hearts of shoppers this holiday season.
The PSP Minis stuff sounds neat, I just want to see some of these games in motion. Hopefully our crew at GamesCom will get their hands on some and bring us news. Oddly enough, I'm more excited about the comic reader for the PSP. What? I'm a comic nerd and I travel. Being a comic nerd means I sweat the condition of my comic books. You think I'm going to lug around mint-condition books on a plane? Hell no. Digital comics to take with me? Hell yes. Now I just want more publishers on board. Marvel's cool, but where are DC and the indies?
It was also good to see some new PSP games announced. I'm really curious to see what's being done with Eye of Judgment. I actually liked the original and wouldn't mind a portable version for some card battling on the go. The only blemish to the PSP news is the price of the Go. It would be great if there were either an 11th hour price reduction or...a free Gran Turismo PSP like they're doing in Europe.
Overall I'd say Sony's headed, albeit belatedly, down the right path (if you shrug off the PSP Go's $249 price tag). Now that the playing field is more level, it's going to come down to content, and there's some really outstanding exclusive stuff coming to the PS3 in the coming months. Here's hoping things keep rolling next month at TGS.
Andrew Park | Managing Editor
Sony's press conference at the 2009 GamesCom event is over, and the company has revealed a ton of new hardware and game announcements. The most interesting to me are the obvious PS3 Slim price point, confirmed for $299 US (€ 299 in Europe, £ 249 in the UK) and the announcement of PSP Minis games that will apparently be constrained to a file-size cap of 100MB.
Obviously, the PS3 price drop is great news for consumers everywhere and could be a big win for Sony by Christmas. A $300 Blu-ray player is nothing to sniff at, especially when it also plays awesome games like inFamous and Resistance 2 and will be supplemented by upcoming releases like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. This is also a smart move for a Western consumer market that finds itself strapped for cash as a result of ongoing economic problems and makes the once-pricey PS3 seem much more accessible. After all, it's just $50 more than the Wii now.
I'm also intrigued by the announcement of the PSP Minis, I guess partially because they were announced at a European show among the company of excellent Euro-developed games such as Little Big Planet. Even though consumers haven't always gotten the best treatment from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (considering all the late releases and higher price tags), the EU's development community has done outstanding work with Sony hardware, both for the living room and for portables.
I have mixed feelings about capping the file size of PSP Minis at 100MB--it's understandable given the PSP Go's download-only game delivery (since the hardware doesn't have a UMD slot), but I'm concerned it may constrain development for the handheld itself. The PSP is a big, beautiful handheld with a lot of power under the hood, and it would be a shame to see the game library go from top-flight games like the Soul Caliburs and the Gran Turismos to lower-quality, rush-job games that got the nod because they were cheap to produce and weighed in at under 100MB.
Tor Thorsen | Senior News Editor
Nearly three years after the PlayStation 3 was launched, Sony has finally decided to get competitive. This price drop removes the last smacks of Kutaragi hubris from Sony's marketing campaign, which began in 2006 with the presumption that Joe Gamer would plunk down $600 because the PS3 had the word "PlayStation" on the box. Despite a bevy of features, that didn't happen. Sony has been staring at Microsoft and Nintendo's hindquarters ever since--a trend Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Kaz Hirai has apparently had enough of.
Now, the 120GB PS3 Slim is the best deal in video gaming, period. Even if, as rumored, the 120GB Xbox 360 Elite matches its $299 price later this month, Microsoft now finds itself soundly trumped on the feature front. For the same price, consumers get a Blu-ray player--unavailable on the Xbox, period--and built-in Wi-Fi, which costs an outrageous $100 extra for the 360. Though it lacks the Twitter, Facebook, and Last.fm integration the 360 will get later this year, the PS3 offers direct access to those sites via its Web browser. (Netflix streaming remains Microsoft's sole platform-exclusive service, although third-party apps can fix that as well.) Throw in Sony's far more reliable hardware--which is now more energy efficient, cooler, and quieter thanks to a smaller 45nm-process Cell chipset--and it's a package too attractive for any serious gamer not to own.
But now that the price playing field is leveled, Sony has to catch up in two areas. While free, the PlayStation Network remains a far less robust and compelling experience than the gold standard, Xbox Live (which, like the 360's wireless adapter, isn't free). The other is blockbuster exclusives, which, up until recently, Microsoft has done a better job of locking down, with megahits like Halo 3, Gears of War 2, and the Grand Theft Auto IV downloadable content. Following the less-than-stellar sales of Killzone 2 and Infamous, that too looks set to change with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves due this fall and God of War III due next March.
Nintendo and Microsoft, the ball is in your court.
Giancarlo Varanini | Editor-at-Large
The price cut for the PS3 is fantastic and long overdue for a system that has struggled to make major inroads--at least on the sales charts--against its competitors. And while I usually like the idea of system redesigns, the approach taken with the PS3 Slim seems to fall outside the rubric for a typical refresh. In other words, the smaller PS2 was introduced in 2004 as a means for reintroducing the system to the market and giving it new life on store shelves. Meanwhile, this new PS3 has been birthed by the need to cut costs on manufacturing in order to allow a more competitive price point.
The result is a design approach that goes far, but not far enough. Sure, it's ostensibly smaller in terms of volume, but it still carries a similar footprint when laid flat, and that bothers me for some reason. Of course, I'm looking at this as someone who already owns a PS3 and likes the current PS3 design, so perhaps this slimmer system--combined with a new price--is exactly what's needed for those sitting on the fence.
I'm glad that the PSP wasn't completely overshadowed by the PS3 announcement, however. The PSP Minis program sounds like a great idea for a system that has been woefully neglected by the masses despite having some amazing games released for it over the past year or so and some equally cool titles coming up in a few months. A constant barrage of PSP Minis should help keep it at the forefront in between bigger releases, and this could lead to some interesting crossover between iPhone and PSP development.
Shaun McInnis | Associate Editor
I had the pleasure of watching the Sony GamesCom press conference live and in person. It's hard to say the crowd was abuzz with speculation over what the big news of the night would be, since pretty much everyone knew the PS3 Slim was going to be announced. In fact, a temporary billboard cover across the parking lot from the entrance read "Watch this space 18-08-09" prior to the show, only to be removed later with a shot of the PS3 Slim and the phrase "It's the new PlayStation 3!" greeting those leaving the conference later in the evening. Nobody in line thought this was going to be an ad for Kolsch beer or a knockwurst sale at your local Aldi supermarket.
However, when Kaz Hirai took to the stage at the end of the night, the crowd still roared over the official unveiling of the Slim. You certainly can't go wrong with a new PS3 that manages to be smaller and more energy efficient than the old model at a price that's $100 cheaper. If you complain about that, you're insane--or you're someone who just bought the original PS3 last week. On top of that, the new PSP Minis store seems like a fun idea that could give Apple's App Store a run for its money in terms of light and cheap independently developed games. And while I'm not much of a comics fan, the deal with Marvel to distribute its books over the PSP seems like a neat idea as well.
The rest of the news seemed pretty heavily focused on the show's primarily European audience. A new BBC iPlayer for the PlayStation 3, a video store for the UK audience at long last, Gran Turismo PSP as a free download for people who buy a PAL-region PSP--these are things that don't really interest a Yank like me. But for the European market, I'm sure they're quite exciting. Overall, it was a surprisingly interesting show from start to finish. Nice job, Sony.
Andre Segers | Game Guides Editor
Forget the price drop. I'm pumped that the Slim now has actual power and eject buttons instead of that touch-sensitive nonsense. At any rate, the reduced price is a welcome (if completely expected) announcement. Although I still think it's overpriced for a game console, it should give the sales figures a nice kick start as we enter the holiday season, which is something the PS3 has long needed.
The rest of the conference seemed relatively noneventful. I don't personally care about new PSP colors or using said device to read comic books. I do hope Heavy Rain comes out soon, if only so they can stop showing it at every single press conference. It was disappointing that more wasn't shown of the new PS3 motion controller, but I'm eager to see what they have in store for TGS.
That said, the announcement of the PSP Minis (despite the poor name) is exciting, as it should allow bite-sized, iPhone-style games to flourish thanks to the PSP's...what's the word...oh right: buttons (eat your heart out, iPhone). And from what was shown, it looks like the catalog is already more impressive than the entirety of the DSiWare store. Hopefully this idea will be embraced by developers and gamers alike, as it may pave the way for games more befitting a portable system than the myriad downsized console ports that currently infest it.