SCEA Gamers' Day report

Sony execs prep the industry and gamers for the PSP, 40GB hard disc drive, EyeToy, and Final Fantasy XI.

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Sony Computer Entertainment president and CEO Kaz Hirai and executive vice presidents Jack Tretton and Andrew House presented to a group of journalists and analysts this morning gathered for the company's third annual Gamers' Day in San Francisco.

Major announcements made during the morning presentation included the following:

The 40GB hard disc drive for the PS2, already available to Japanese gamers, is confirmed for a March 2004 launch date in the US. The disc drive will sell for $99 and will come with Final Fantasy XI preinstalled. Sony briefly mentioned that FFXI networked gameplay (available through Square Enix's PlayOnline network) will be priced as follows: The first 30 days will be free, and a $12.95 per month fee will be assessed from that point on.

Along with the device's 40GB storage capability, the PS2 HDD will make possible the download of additional game content, including missions and levels, characters, and more. The first games stateside that will take advantage of this download capability are the SCEA-published SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs and Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain. Sony also confirmed that the PS2 HDD will come preinstalled with a customized media player. This "personal jukebox" will allow PS2 owners to store and play MP3s and songs ripped from CDs, while a photo manager enables users to store, edit, and display digital photos. Gamers can also browse game-related and other content stored on the HDD. These features resemble versions of the PS2 Broadband Navigator software that is already available in Japan.

SCEA's handheld gaming device, the PSP, is on track for a Q4 2004 launch. A prototype will be unveiled at E3 2004. House confirmed that the new handheld is being primed for a simultaneous worldwide launch. Currently, 10 first-party titles are in development for the new platform, though not all of those titles are being readied for the launch. House said SCEA has been "deluged" by third-party interest in the new platform. Jack Tretton said he expects the new device to launch with a more robust software lineup than has been available for any previous hardware launch.

Sony's highly successful EyeToy camera and game, charting impressive sales in Europe--it camped at the top-selling slot for five weeks before being unseated recently by Microsoft's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic for the Xbox--is due for the US marketplace on November 4 and will retail for $49.99. Tretton expects the retail channel to have 350,000 EyeToy: Play units on hand at launch, and one million units will ship to retailers by the end of the year. Also launching on November 4 is the company's USB headset, which will retail for $29.99. Tretton added that there are 15 titles in the works that will support the headset.

On the software front, release dates for two big titles were finalized: Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain is due in February 2004, and Rise to Honor is due in January 2004. It was said that Syphon Filter will feature four-player co-op and competitive online multiplayer modes.

In addition, SCEA public relations director Molly Smith addressed the upcoming PS2 upgrade. Smith said the new model would begin to enter the retail channel "over the next month." The upgrade provides additional DVD functionality including progressive scan support, recordable DVD media playback, and a built-in IR receiver.

Check this page for more of GameSpot's coverage of the Sony Gamers' Day event.

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