Sony give prices, dates for Playstation 3

Sony has finally announced the launch dates and pricing for the much anticipated PlayStation 3. The next generation games console is due to hit the shelves in the UK on 18 November at a price reckoned to be somewhere between £340 and £410.

Two models will be introduced – a version with a 20GB hard disk drive and one with a 60GB hard disk. In the US, the machines are prices at $499 and $599. At these prices, whichever way you look at it, the PlayStation 3 is not something that most parents will consider as a last-minute stocking filler.

UK prices have yet to be confirmed. However, Sony said the PS3 will sell in Europe for €499 for the 20GB version, rising to €599 for the 60GB model.

Sony is banking that customers will be willing to pay the top prices not only because they want the machine for its game playing but also getting it in order to play Blu-ray format movies. And to get the most out of Blu-ray’s capacity you will need a high definition television to go with it.

However, it does mean that PS3 owners will be able to play games of cinematic quality.

Even so, there may be a catch for customers of the cheaper model. The 60Gb version has four USB 2.0 ports, a memory card reader, built-in 802.11b/g, Bluetooth 2.0, support for HD displays up to 1080i and 1080p, one HDMI (High-Definition Multi-media Interface) output, AV output, and digital optical output.

However, the 20GB hard drive, loses the memory card reader, WiFi support and, crucially, the HDMI output. Because movie studios are paranoid that the alternative unprotected output will be used to pirate full definition copies of Blu-Ray movies, the data stream from the disks may well be downsampled. As a result, owners of the cheaper model may not get the Blu-Ray experience they hoped for even with an HDTV.

So, the price points are a huge gamble for Sony. In contrast, Microsoft’s Xbox 360, which will have had almost a year’s head start over the PlayStation 3, currently retails for around £210. By the time the PS3 launches, Redmond will doubtless have a price cut in the works in time for the Christmas season.

Just to make life even more interesting for Sony, the delay in the launch of the Playstation 3 – which was originally due to launch last year – the market for next generation consoles will include the new Nintendo Wii machine.

The PS3 will make its world wide debut in Japan on 11 November. In order to avoid the shortages which accompanied the launch of the Xbox 360 Sony says it plans to ship four million units by the end of the year and another two million in the first quarter of 2007.

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