When news first broke late last week of PlayStation 3 units in Australia and Europe being less backward compatible than US and Japanese models, many speculated that the move was all about cutting costs on Sony's next-generation console. Sony Computer Entertainment Australia managing director Michael Ephraim has now confirmed that to GameSpot AU, saying that software emulation of PlayStation 2 games was the cheaper option for Sony on the PS3.
The Australian and European model of the PlayStation 3, which is set for launch on March 23, 2007, will use different hardware specifications from the models already released in Japan on November 11, 2006, and in the US on November 17. Backward compatibility is one of the key differences, with the new PS3s compatible with only a "limited range" of PS2 titles and a "broad range" of original PlayStation games. Ephraim said the main reason behind the different compatibilities is that Australian/European PS3s will not ship with the Emotion Engine chip installed. The Emotion Engine is the name Sony coined for the PS2's CPU. While the list of backward-compatible PS/PS2 games will be limited on launch, Sony will be providing regular updates to expand that list, Ephraim said.
"Clearly cost is one of the [reasons]. If software is cheaper than the cost of the chip, then why not do that?" Ephraim said. "We will be working on delivering backward compatibility through software emulation. The software-emulation list will grow, and there's a Web site people can check to see what games are backward compatible. It will be a progressive emulation."
Ephraim played down the importance of backward compatibility on the PS3, saying that the new console has plenty more to offer prospective buyers.
"People will be able to play quite a few [PS and PS2] games. PS games are not a problem. I think PS2 backward compatibility is important, but when you look at what PS3's doing with new games, digital content, and so on, that specific functionality may not be as important as previously felt. But then again, that is something the consumer has to decide on. We are intending to deliver backward compatibility--just through different means," he said.
Ephraim said the full list of backward-compatible games that will be ready for the PS3's Australian and European launches was still being confirmed. Sony's Web site will feature a full list that goes live on March 23.