Sony drops price on PS3 to $299 and introduces new slim model.

It’s been a long running rumor and today at GamesCon Sony finally made it official. First they’re dropping the price of the PS3 to $299 effective immediately. That’s for the current 80GB model. Additionally they’re introducing the new PS3 Slim which will come with a 120GB hard drive for the same price.

That’s still going to be too expensive for some people and it’s clear that Sony is cognizant of the ongoing debate over the price of the PS3. The following video of the announcement goes to great lengths to point out that the price is now half of what it was when the PS3 was first introduced and the console itself is only three years old and will likely have a 10 year life. I do remember choking on my lunch when the initial price was announced and it took a long time for it to come down to a price point I was willing to buy it at, but I must say it’s been worth every penny so far. We use it as much as a media playback device (Blu-ray movies, streaming DivX from PC) as we do a gaming system and does both amazingly well.

Maybe it’s just me, but the new Slim model is fugly as hell. I’m really glad I bought one of the last of the original 60GB models before they all sold out as it looks much nicer than the new Slim model. Granted the new design is part of what’s allowing for the new price, but did they have to take out all the styling to do it? If you’ve been waiting to pick up a PS3 then I’d suggest grabbing one of the remaining 80GB models at the new price point while you can.

Sony also plans to out-Wii the Wii.

Not content to be the only console system that doesn’t have people jumping around in front of it flailing their arms about like idiots risking potentially expensive television damage, Sony announced it’s own Wii-like motion controller for the PS3 today. Interestingly enough it appears to be taking cues from both Microsoft and Nintendo in that it’s a wand with positioning sensors in it that interacts with the PS3’s Playstation Eye webcam that’s already available. This setup means that the resulting controller is likely to be a lot less expensive than Microsoft’s Project Natal and it will offer a much greater degree of precision – true 1-to-1 sensing – than the Wii-mote. If you already own a Playstation Eye then you’re already halfway toward a new control scheme.

It appears Sony’s system makes use of a colored ball on the end of the wand which the camera locks in on as a control point. The color of the ball can be changed so that more than one wand can be used at the same time. All they had to show today was some tech demos that demonstrated the possible ways one or two wands could be used together. Here’s the first part of the demo with the second part after the jump:

In a way it’s a major compliment to Nintendo that both Microsoft and Sony have felt the need to add some form of Wii-like motion control mechanics to their systems as it’s a tacit acknowledgment of the impact the Wii has had on the industry. What’s interesting is how Microsoft appears to be trying to make their control system much more comprehensive where as Sony is taking the basic Wii functionality and improving it greatly. Ultimately it looks like you’re going to have the option for getting out of your chair and waggling about regardless of which system you own. Sony plans to have their new controller on the market early next year. Don’t forget to watch the second part after the jump.

The Onion on Sony’s latest Stupid Piece of Shit.

I love Sony products, but this had me in tears laughing. Lots of NSFW language so put some headphones on or wait till you get home:

I so gots to get me one of those.

Sony can’t catch a break. Criticized by Muslim group for LBP song removal.

After being sued by the Church of England over the appearance of Manchester Cathedral in the hit FPS Resistance: Fall of Man it’s understandable that Sony would go out of its way to avoid offending religious sensibilities. So when a post showed up in the official European Playstation forums pointing out that a song in the soundtrack for LittleBigPlanet contained verses from the Qur’an and thusly could be considered offensive to Muslims, they opted to err on the side of caution and delay the launch of the game so it could be removed. Now they’re being criticized by a different Muslim group over that decision:

M. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D., president of the non-profit American Islamic Forum for Democracy told Edge on Monday, “Muslims cannot benefit from freedom of expression and religion and then turn around and ask that anytime their sensibilities are offended that the freedom of others be restricted.

“The free market allows for expression of disfavor by simply not purchasing a game that may be offensive.”

Jasser, who has also appeared on CNN, in the Washington Times and National Review, said that not only does the First Amendment support freedom of expression, but Mohammed also “defended the rights of his enemies to critique him in any way even if it was offensive to his own Islamic sensibilities or respect for Koranic scripture.”

[…] Jasser said that the demand to censor, as well as Sony’s willingness to bend at the request, is counterproductive to freedom of speech.

“…To demand that [the game] be withdrawn is predicated on a society which gives theocrats who wish to control speech far more value than the central principle of freedom of expression upon which the very practice and freedom of religion is based.”

Jasser added, “The fact that the music writer is a devout Muslim should highlight that at the core of this issue is not about offending ‘all Muslims,’ but only about freedom of expression and the free market.”

He still said that he does not endorse the use of Koranic verses in non-educational videogames, calling the literature “the words of God.”

But he took a clear stance in upholding First Amendment rights.

“AIFD stands against any form of censorship in the marketplace of ideas whether imposed by government or by corporations intimidated by the response of militants or those with an inappropriately sensitive level of political correctness,” Jasser said.

Needless to say, I agree with him. I can totally understand why Sony opted to play it safe, but I still think they should have kept the song. I also think we need more Muslims standing up and saying things like Mr. Jasser here.

Sony delays launch of “LittleBigPlanet” due to song with versus from Qur’an in it.

Apparently it’s considered offensive to Muslims to put passages of the Qur’an to music. One track licensed for the game has two lines straight from the holy text as lyrics so Sony decided to delay LBP’s release so they could remove the song:

During the review process prior to the release of LittleBigPlanet, it has been brought to our attention that one of the background music tracks licensed from a record label for use in the game contains two expressions that can be found in the Qur’an. We have taken immediate action to rectify this and we sincerely apologize for any offense that this may have caused.

We will begin shipping LittleBigPlanet to retail in North America the week of October 27th. Sorry for the delay, and rest assured, we are doing everything we can to get LittleBigPlanet to you as soon as possible.

Needless to say I find this silly, but it’s probably in Sony’s better interests to cover their ass and avoid the controversy that would otherwise result. The song itself is Tapha Niang by Toumani Diabate and can be heard on his MySpace page if you’re curious. I thought it was rather pleasant myself.

I won’t be buying videos through the PS3 video store.

When Sony launched the video store service on the Playstation Network I took the time to fire up my PS3 and browse through the store to see what they were offering and how much it would cost, but I didn’t buy anything because I hadn’t taken the time to find out what the terms of service currently are. It goes without saying that any videos bought through the service would have some form of DRM on them and therefore would be limited in some way, but I didn’t know what those limitations were.

As it turns out they’re much more limited than I would have guessed. The folks at ArsTechnica.com lay out the rules:

Noise, a forum-goer, sent out a warning after he deleted some video content to make room on his hard drive and then found he couldn’t redownload the content. The PlayStation 3 support page is perfectly clear on this matter. “Purchased content can be downloaded to a single PLAYSTATION 3 or a single PSP system,” it reads. “Content cannot be redownloaded once it has been downloaded to either a PLAYSTATION 3 or PSP system.”

You’re allowed to keep the content on one system, and you can move it to up to three PSP systems, but if you have to delete the content for any reason, it’s gone? Sort of. Lincoln Davis, who handles media relations for the PlayStation Network, told Ars that you are in fact allowed one extra download, but you have to contact Sony. “If a consumer deletes a purchased movie from their PS3, they will not be able to redownload the movie without assistance from SCEA’s consumer services,” he told Ars. “Consumer service can issue a redownload as a one-time courtesy, as provided by our guidelines, for the title to allow the consumer to go back and download the movie from their PSN download list.”

This is especially restrictive when you consider that 1) some games can eat up a couple of gigs of hard drive space with installs so after a few games and some movie purchases you could be low on space, 2) early PS3 models had as small as a 20GB hard drive in them, 3) even though you can swap in a bigger hard drive yourself the backup utility on the PS3 will not move purchased video content over to the new drive, 4) there’s currently no way to get the video off of the PS3 hard drive and onto your PC, and 5) no one knows what happens with your purchased videos when the PS4 comes out. All in all that makes purchasing movies through the PS3 very unattractive, though renting might still be an option. Renting is a few bucks cheaper and gives you access to a movie for 24 hours after which it’s deleted from the hard drive.

I figure it’s only a matter of time before someone comes up with a PC program that’ll read the PS3 hard drive format and/or allow you to backup all your data over the network. Then someone else will eventually break the DRM used on the video store files and perhaps then it’d be worth purchasing them through your PS3, but for the time being I’d recommend avoiding the temptation.

Sony launches “Life with Playstation” for the PS3.

One of the things that I love about my PS3 is that Sony seems to be trying all sorts of new ideas with it. Their latest offering is a free service they’re calling “Life with Playstation.” It turns out it’s somewhat similar to the Nintendo Wii’s News and Weather channel, but presented in a much more dramatic way. Here’s an overview from the announcement on the Playstation blog:

Life with PlayStation provides a stunning interactive globe, a 3D world map that you can twirl around to see live cloud movement courtesy of the University of Wisconsin, combined with up-to-date weather information from the Weather Channel, top news headlines provided by Google news, and live web cam images via the Earth Television Network — all localized to the select city. And why not have your favorite soundtrack playing in the background while you go through your morning ritual (just think, no TV commercials and teasers to find out if you need to bring an umbrella to work)? You’re on your own for your morning caffeine fix.

For those following the progress of Hurricane Ike throughout last week, we were able to track the storm’s real-time movement from Life with PlayStation.

At this point they have a screenshot showing the hurricane making its way towards Texas as presented on the real-time globe. It’s pretty nifty, but here’s the part that I thought was particularly cool:

We’re also really excited to share that this new lifestyle service is running in parallel with our Folding@home project. Essentially, this means that while you’re taking a stroll on Life with PlayStation, you’re automatically helping Stanford University to work towards curing diseases such as Alzheimer’s and various types of cancers. For those familiar with Folding@home, we’ve made some enhancements for more advanced simulations of protein folding and support for wider variety of simulations, in addition to adding a unique ranking system showcasing top contributors from around the world.

I have the Folding@Home software installed on my PS3, but I’ve yet to process an entire packet because the only time I leave the PS3 on without playing it is when I’m charging up the controller which is infrequent enough of an event that the Folding@Home software only runs for a little while. Now there’s a service I might actually make use of that as an added benefit does Folding@Home processing as it runs. Again it’s hard to say how much more time will come out of this, but it’ll certainly up the frequency for me.

Sony even includes a short video presentation of the new service:

I’ve not played with it myself yet, but I’ll probably download it when I get home from class this evening to check it out. I’ll post my impressions on it a bit later.

Sony releases a virtual pet in your living room.

I have to give Sony credit for doing some amazing stuff with the PlaystationEye accessory for the PS3. The original EyeToy for the PS2 had a few games for it that attempted to allow you to interact with on screen objects, but most of them were collections of simple mini-games that were only amusing for a short while. The most ambitious EyeToy game was AntiGrav which had you using your whole body to control a dude on a hover board. It wasn’t terrible, but it never really lived up to the promise.

Shortly after the PS3 came out Sony released the PlaystationEye which was an enhanced version of the EyeToy. Right off the bat it was clear things were going to be quite different with the release of the game The Eye of Judgement which was essentially a trading card game that used the PS3 and the PlaystationEye to bring the cards to life in a fashion reminiscent of the animated chess scene in Star Wars. When the game came out it worked just as advertised and has been relatively popular.

Now Sony is kicking it up a notch with the announcement of EyePet. A disgustingly cute virtual pet that will interact with you via the PlaystationEye camera. Check out this trailer for it:

If it works half as well as the trailer suggests then it’ll be very impressive. Based on the footage it’s hard to say just how long it’d remain an interesting plaything, but for younger kids it could be very popular. I’m just impressed with the level of interaction that appears to be possible.

Sony announces new 160GB PS3 Bundle and Wireless Keypad at Leipzig.

Sony seems to be falling into a pattern with how they market the PS3. Since the beginning they’ve offered two models of the console and as time goes on they drop the low-end model and make the high-end the new low-end and introduce a new high-end version.  Originally it was the 20GB and 60GB models and there were significant hardware differences between the two. Then came the 40GB and 80GB models with the primary difference being the lack of PS2 backwards compatibility on the 40GB version. Then they changed the 80GB model so it was the same as the 40GB just with a bigger HD, but added value by including a game as a pack-in (Metal Gear Solid 4). Now they’ve dropped the 40GB model altogether and reduced the 80GB model down to $399 without MGS4 so what’s the new high-end model to be?

It’ll be a 160GB model with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and a voucher for the PSN game Pain packed in for $499:

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune PS3 Bundle with 160GB PS3 System

The 160GB PS3 system announced at the GC will be available here as part of a new limited-edition bundle that includes the hardware, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune game, a PLAYSTATION Network voucher for PAIN, and a DUALSHOCK 3 wireless controller.  We’re hearing from a lot of you that more PS3 storage space is important, particularly since the launch of our video delivery service, and this new model delivers more memory and a whole lot of content packed-in. The 160GB PS3 has all of the same functionality as the new 80GB PS3 that’s popping up on retailer shelves now, but obviously has twice the HDD space, so you can build levels to your heart’s content in LittleBigPlanet, download a ton of videos, and still have room for your entire music collection. The Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune 160GB PS3 bundle launches in November for $499.99 (MSRP).

Double the disk space and two games for an extra $100 isn’t too bad of a deal and Uncharted is easily one of the better titles available for the PS3 right now. I’ve played the hell out of the demo as I’ve not been able to squeeze out the money to pick it up myself yet, but it’s gotten pretty good reviews.

The other big PS3 announcement is for a new wireless keypad that attaches to the PS3 controller to make entering text a bit easier:

Lastly, we’ve announced a new Wireless Keypad for PS3 that will make text communications and Web browsing much easier. The Wireless Keypad snaps onto the top of a SIXAXIS or DUALSHOCK 3 wireless controller and comes with some cool features, including a mode that turns the main key area into a touch pad (similar to a touch pad on a Laptop computer). Once in this mode, you can slide your finger on this area to move the cursor on the screen and tap to enter. There will be two short cut buttons on the Keypad that will enable users to jump directly to the XMB’s “Friends” icon and the “Message Box” during gameplay. The Wireless Keypad will launch in late November.

Last but not least, the Wireless Keypad is a Bluetooth device that can not only be used with the PS3 system but with any other Bluetooth enabled device that has Keyboard functionality. You will be able to use it with your smart phones and other portable devices that are equipped with Bluetooth. With the PS3 system, it can be paired and charged seamlessly just by connecting them with a USB cable.

With it sitting on top of the controller it may be awkward to use so I doubt you’d use it during the heat of battle, but it should still beat the hell out of using the on-screen keyboard to enter text into games. Considering it’s designed to snap onto a PS3 I’m not sure how you’d use it with a smart phone other than perhaps just holding it in your hand to type on.

 

 

It’s beginning to look like the PS3 will be a success after all.

A lot of folks are saying that 2008 is the year of the Playstation 3 and it’s increasingly looking like that may be true. It’s taken awhile to get here, but the PS3 has picked up some serious momentum. While it’s no where near close to the Nintendo Wii in terms of hardware sales, it has been outselling the Xbox 360 for the past several months and has doubled its sales from this time last year:

Following the latest NPD video game sales data for July, which showed the PS3 outselling the Xbox 360 by about 20,000 units, Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) has issued its own reaction to the sales, noting that PS3 hardware was once again boosted by the Metal Gear Solid 4 bundle. With the inclusion of the July data, the PS3 has now sold 1.8 million units in the U.S. in 2008, which represents 99 percent growth over last year.

Furthermore, PS3 software sales have grown 206 percent year-to-date. And Sony said there are now more than 10 million registered PSN accounts worldwide and approximately 200 million pieces of content have been downloaded across the globe. Overall, year to date (Jan-July), the PlayStation brand has generated nearly $3.3 billion in revenue, which is an increase of more than 22 percent.

The Xbox 360 still has a larger installed base, but that’s to be expected given it had a whole year to itself and the slow start the PS3 suffered due to its high price tag and lack of software. There’s quite a few major titles being released this year that are good candidates for selling hardware with the most anticipated being Little Big Planet. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the PS3 is the most future-proof Blu-ray player available.

With the Nintendo Wii shitting out money at a record pace for Nintendo it’s doubtful that Sony will recapture the number one console position this generation, but they can’t be too upset at the likelihood of being number two. As of November the PS3 will be two years into a 10 year life cycle so there’s still plenty of time left for improvement.