PS3 nears half a million Aussie sales; free music streaming service detailed

PlayStation 3 nears 500,000 sales mark down under; ad-supported music video streaming service detailed; new PSP hardware SKUs and games announced.

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Sony has long touted that its PlayStation 3 is more than just a games machine. At the Leipzig Games Convention last year, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe announced that it would be bringing UK music video streaming service VidZone to the PS3, with plans for a trial to begin in early 2009. At a media event held today, Sony unveiled more details on the service and gave an indication of what to expect when it launches in the United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Australia sometime in June this year.

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The VidZone service, which will be available through the music menu system of the PlayStation’s XMB after a firmware update, will be free to download and use and will give users access to music videos from a variety of artists. Sony reps at the event were unable to tell GameSpot which music labels are confirmed to contribute content, but they did indicate that it will be more than just Sony BMG and will include other large players as well as indie labels. Targeted advertising in the form of banner ads will supplement the cost of the service, which will be visible in both windowed and full-screen views. Sony confirmed that there are no plans to offer a premium or subscription-based service to disable the ads.

VidZone will allow users to browse music by artists, songs, and genres, as well as create custom playlists for continuous play. A quick tour of the service showed acts such as Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian and Beyonce, the latter artist having 22 tracks available for streaming. Sony announced that it will offer more than 10,000 tracks at launch, with plans to update content on a weekly basis.

Each video clip has been specifically encoded and optimised for the PlayStation 3 hardware, Sony claims, and while the service will gauge and serve content based on the user’s Internet connection speed with video quality scaled to avoid stuttering, local caching will be offered for all regions. Sony reps were unable to indicate average stream file sizes but suggested that even meagre Australian broadband connections should suffice to stream standard-definition videos. The service will not be available in high definition.

Sony also used today’s media event to update its local console sales figures and roadmap, announcing that the PlayStation 3 has almost hit the half-million-units-sold mark down under. In February this year Sony announced that it had a total Australian PlayStation 3 install base in excess of 460,000 units.

Sony Computer Entertainment Australia's managing director, Michael Ephraim, confirmed that Sony was “three to four thousand [units] short of 500,000.” The figure includes 70,000 units given away as part of its Bravia LCD television promotion and puts Sony within striking distance of Microsoft's most recent 537,000-unit sales figure. The company also boasts that 50 percent of the PS3 units sold have been taken online using the PlayStation Network.

Finally, the company announced that Australia will receive blue and red colour variants of its PlayStation Portable sometime between June and July this year. No price points were revealed, but the new models will coincide with the launch of two PSP-exclusive sports titles specific to the Australian market: AFL Challenge and Rugby League Challenge.

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