LOS ANGELES--Today saw the second of the big three console makers announce its next-generation platform. At its pre-E3 press conference, Sony Computer Entertainment gave the world its first look at the PlayStation 3, as it is now officially called. While the device's price has not yet been set, its release window--spring 2006--has. Flanked by Sony Computer Entertainment America President and CEO Kaz Hirai, SCE head Ken Kutaragi introduced it as a "supercomputer for computer entertainment."
The name was not unexpected, since Sony had been running an extensive teaser-ad campaign prepping the public for the PlayStation 3. The company had laid a blanket of posters around the Los Angeles Convention Center, site of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (aka E3). Bus stalls and billboards around the convention center proclaimed "Prepare for Chang3" in the distinctive PlayStation font with partial shots of the Dual Shock controller's square-circle-triangle-X buttons.
Sony also confirmed the PlayStation 3 will use Blu-ray discs as its media format. The discs can hold up to six times as much data as current-generation DVDs. It will also support CR-ROM, CD-RW, DVD, DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD+R formats. Sony also confirmed that the machine will be backward compatible all the way to the original PlayStation. It will also have slots for Memory Stick Duo, an SD slot, and a compact flash memory slot. It will also sport a slot for a detachable 2.5-inch HDD, somewhat similar to the Xbox 360's. Sony did not mention if the drive would be standard.
Sony also laid out the technical specs of the device. The PlayStation 3 will feature the much-vaunted Cell processor, which will run at 3.2GHz, giving the whole system 2 teraflops of overall performance. It will sport 256MB XDR main RAM at 3.2GHz, and it will have 256MB of GDDR VRAM at 700MHz.
Sony also unveiled the PS3's graphics chip, the RSX "Reality Synthesizer," which is based on Nvidia technology. The GPU will be capable of 128bit pixel precision and 1080p resolution--some of the highest HD resolution around. The RSX also has 512MB of graphics render memory and is capable of 100 billion shader operations and 51 billion dot products per second. It also has more than 300 million transistors, larger than any processor commercially available today. It will be manufactured using the 90nm process, with eight layers of metal. The RSX is more powerful than two GeForce 6800 Ultra video cards, which would cost roughly $1,000 total if purchased today.
The PlayStation 3 will also sport some hefty multimedia features, such as video chat, Internet access, digital photo viewing, and digital audio and video. Speaking of video, Sony Computer Entertainment's chief technical officer Masa Chatani was on hand to show off the PS3's panoramic video functions. Since the console has two HD outputs, it is can be hooked up to two side-by-side HDTVs to projecting video in a 32:9 extra-widescreen format (think Cinemascope in your living room). Like a gigantic version of the Nintendo DS, the dual digital outputs also allow for an extended game display, with the action on one screen and either game information or video chat on the second.
Out of the box, the PS3 will have the capability to support seven Bluetooth controllers, which can be used for nearly 24 hours before they require charging. Later, pictures of the controllers themselves were released, showing their almost boomerang-like shape. It will also have six USB slots for peripherals: four up front and two in the back. As rumored, it will also have Wi-Fi connectivity to the PSP, which can be used as a remote screen and/or controller.
Dr. Richard Marx, the inventor of EyeToy, was on hand to show off the PS3's wireless HD IP Camera. The demo recalled rumors that the machine will have Minority Report-esque motion-sensing capabilities. Marx held two small cup-like objects in his hands, which moved the cups on the screen in real time.
To show off the PlayStation 3's graphical brawn, Sony showed several game demos, including an Unreal 3 engine show-off of what appeared to be Unreal Tournament 2007. In what must come as a relief to developers, Epic Games' Tim Sweeney was on hand to vouch for the PS3, saying it was "easy to program for" and that Epic had received its first PS3 hardware two months ago. He proved the tech demo was real-time by showing it again and by manipulating the camera and zooming in.
Sony also showed off several other tech demos. One was a next-gen remake of the famed "duck demo" first shown when the PlayStation 2 launched. Except this time, instead of one duck in a bathtub, the demo showed a whole flock of ducks milling about, as well as several toy battleships. Another demo showed grass and foliage growing while another showed Gran Turismo cars racing with Spider-Man swinging overhead. Speaking of Spider-Man, another demo showed highly detailed renders of Alfred Molina as Dr. Octopus recreated from the film Spider-Man 2.
However, Sweeney's words were only the beginning. Later, Sony trotted out a whole host of publishers that are backing the PlayStation 3. And in the process, it confirmed several games for the console. Hideo Kojima introduced Konami's Metal Gear Solid 4, Capcom showed off Devil May Cry 4, Namco unveiled Tekken 6, Polyphony Digital trotted out a fifth Gran Turismo, SCEE showed off the next Killzone, and Rockstar Games showed a new Western title.
EA President Larry Probst was also on hand to show off a demonstration of the next Fight Night game, which will presumably be called Fight Night Round 3. When one of the two fighters took a blow, his skin rippled realistically. Kudo Tsonoda from EA's Chicago studio was on hand, and said that the goal is to make the facial animation convey the amount of punishment a pugilist has suffered.
And still the games came. SCEE had three on display: A third Getaway, with an even seedier, nastier version of London; a new off-road racing game called Motor Storm from Evolution Studios; and a shooter called Heavenly Sword. Sega is readying Fifth Phantom Saga, and Bandai is prepping another Gundam game. Ubisoft is continuing to innovate in the first-person shooter field with an all-new IP named Killing Day. Koei enlightened the crowd with a demo of Ni-oh, a new martial-arts-themed brawler about Buddha's monk bodyguards. Incognito is developing a sequel to Warhawk, the acclaimed actioner for the original PlayStation.
However, one of the night's most impressive tech demos will likely be the most disappointing for fans of the Final Fantasy series. After showing some footage from the upcoming Final Fantasy XII for the PlayStation 2, Square Enix Yochi Wada showed a very impressive demo called "Final Fantasy VII: Technical Demo for PlayStation 3." The visually impressive demo showed a sequence of a cityscape, culminating with fan favorite Cloud jumping out of a train. However, Wada said the clip was "merely a sample" and Square Enix currently has no plans to release a remake of Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation 3. However, he did say the series would arrive on the console in "some form."
Wada's presence at the PS3 launch was ironic, given that Microsoft announced Final Fantasy XI for the Xbox 360 just hours later. In fact, much of Sony's conference seemed designed to one-up the features of Microsoft's new console point by point.
Sony also emphasized that the PlayStation 3 would have similar online connectivity and services as the next generation of Xbox Live. Calling it "an always on, always connected device," Chatani said the PS3 would be constantly in touch with a "PlayStation World" network "fundamentally based on a on community, communication commerce, and content." He said that subscribers could "exchange unique characters and items through the network," much like Microsoft's Xbox Live Marketplace.
PLAYSTATION 3 SPECIFICATIONS
CPU: Cell Processor PowerPC-base Core @3.2GHz
--1 VMX vector unit per core
--512KB L2 cache
--7 x SPE @3.2GHz
--7 x 128b 128 SIMD GPRs
--7 x 256KB SRAM for SPE
--*1 of 8 SPEs reserved for redundancy
--Total floating point performance: 218 gigaflops
GPU RSX @ 550MHz
--1.8 TFLOPS floating point Performance
--Full HD (up to 1080p) x 2 channels
--Multi-way programmable parallel Floating point shader pipelines
--Sound Dolby 5.1ch, DTS, LPCM, etc. (Cell-based processing)
256MB XDR Main RAM @3.2GHz
256MB GDDR3 VRAM @700MHz
System Bandwidth Main RAM-- 25.6GB/s
RSX-- 20GB/s (write) + 15GB/s (read)
SB2.5GB/s (write) + 2.5GB/s (read)
SYSTEM FLOATING POINT PERFORMANCE:
--HDD Detachable 2.5" HDD slot x 1
--I/O--USB Front x 4, Rear x 2 (USB2.0)
--Memory Stickstandard/Duo, PRO x 1
--SD standard/mini x 1
--CompactFlash(Type I, II) x 1
--Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T) x 3 (input x 1 + output x 2)
--Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 b/g
--Bluetooth--Bluetooth 2.0 (EDR)
--ControllerBluetooth (up to 7)
--USB 2.0 (wired)
--Network (over IP)
Screen size 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
HDMI out x 2
AV multi out x 1
Digital out (optical) x 1
SACD Hybrid (CD layer),
DualDisc (audio side)
DualDisc (DVD side)
PlayStation 2 DVD-ROM
PlayStation 3 DVD-ROM
PlayStation 3 BD-ROM