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It's Official: PS3 launching worldwide November 2006

[UPDATE] Sony confirms delay for next-gen console, says it will support an Xbox Live-like online gaming service; console will require a 60GB Linux HDD--but will it be sold separately?


TOKYO--Today at the 2006 PlayStation Business Briefing in Tokyo, Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutagari made it official--the PlayStation 3 has been delayed. The news confirmed widely circulated Japanese newspaper reports, which said that the delay was due to copyright-protection problems with the next-generation console's Blu-ray drive. For his part, Kutaragi would say only that the delay was due to "Blu-ray spec finalization."

Kutaragi told the crowd at the event that the PS3 would now launch in November 2006 worldwide. That dispelled fears that the console would make it to Japan by the fall but would miss the all-important holiday shopping season in the US and Europe. In fact, Kutaragi explicitly told the crowd of game retailers and journalists present that the PS3 would arrive before Thanksgiving in all territories.

Besides announcing the delay, Kutaragi made official another widely reported aspect of the PS3. He said that Sony is indeed preparing an Xbox Live-like online gaming service for the console, which would be called the "PlayStation Network Platform." Though he was short on specifics, the executive did say that currently Sony planned the "basic service"--which will allow online gameplay--will be "free." He also went on to outline the service in a fair amount of detail.

While the simultaneous tri-territory PS3 scheme may sound much like Microsoft's international launch of the Xbox 360, Sony plans to avoid the shortages that befell its competitor. Kutaragi said that the company plans on producing at least 1 million units of the console each month in order to keep the supply channel full. He said the goal was to ship 6 million PS3s worldwide by March 2007.

[UPDATE] The SCE president also told the crowd that the PS3 would use a 60GB 2.5-inch hard disc drive (HDD). A slide show during the presentation said the HDD would be loaded with the Linux operating system instead of Microsoft's Windows OS. The show also said it could be used as a "home server," could be directly connected to the Internet, and would be fully "upgradable."

Kutaragi also made it clear that the hard drive will be necessary to play games--Sony is telling developers to make games assuming every PS3 has a hard drive installed. "We view the hard drive to be mandatory for the PS3," he said. "Rather than have developers create games for the PS3 with or without the HDD, we will be asking them to develop games as though all PS3s have the HDD installed."

However, Kutaragi revealed that Sony had not decided whether or not the PlayStation 3 would come with the hard-drive preinstalled. "We might end up installing it in all PS3s, though that depends on the market," he said. This raises the possibility that the PS3 could be sold without a piece of hardware needed to play PS3 games--in effect forcing consumers to buy a peripheral for basic functionality.

Kutaragi also said that PS3 games would be released only on Blu-ray discs, as DVDs have become too easy for software pirates to duplicate. The high-capacity format is capable of storing around 50GB on a single disc. Sony reps confirmed the PS3 will still play DVDs and CDs, as well as PS2 and PS discs, as previously announced.

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