One week after PS3 pre-sales sell out across North America, and less than a month before the system’s launch, Sony has finally revealed its hand. Sony’s Gamers Day 2006 in San Francisco, California opened with a press briefing detailing all of the relevant information regarding the upcoming Playstation 3 launch.
After a brief series of trailers from upcoming titles to be released, Sony Computer Entertainment America President and CEO Kazuo “Kaz” Hirai took the stage to address industry insiders and press. “What we hope to do is wrap everything up into a nice, neat package for everyone today,” Hirai opened. “We will answer all of the questions that you have had over the past two years.”
The Playstation 3, according to Hirai, will be “relevant” for many years given its hardware and superior technology. “As the leader of videogame entertainment, we felt it was our responsibility to build a machine featuring the most advanced technology ever found in a console,” Hirai stated. “This is not what some may categorize as a hardware transition, but it is in fact a quantum leap in technology.” Production on the final retail units has begun and the first PS3s are rolling off the assembly lines as you read this article.
10,000 development kits, or “Dev-kits,” have been sent to game developers worldwide, which is 50 percent more than both the PS2 and the original Playstation according to Hirai. The games that will be available this shopping season are:
“This is the most robust lineup of any console launch,” Hirai added after listing the launch titles individually and explaining the 1st party titles in greater detail.
When systems hit store shelves on November 17, there will be two different SKUs. The package that will sell for $499.99 will feature a 20 GB hard drive and the basic features that have been listed before. The $599.99 package will feature all of the features from the less-expensive SKU, but will include a 60 GB hard drive instead of a 20 GB, 802.11 b/g wireless capabilities, and a Memory Stick/ SD port.
The lucky few that actually get their hands on one of the first 500,000 PS3 units will also receive the Will Farrell movie “Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby” as part of the package. Including a movie with the system is nothing new for Sony; Spider-Man 2 on UMD was included with the PSP at its launch as well. PS3 owners will get Talladega Nights nearly a month before it releases to the general public in December, so Farrell fans who purchase PS3s will be doubly-pleased with their purchase.
In addition to announcing the “Talladega Nights” inclusion to the package, SCEA Executive Vice President Jack Tretton also disclosed information regarding the different peripherals that will be available at launch. The Six-Axis wireless controller, which reportedly provides 30 hours of gameplay between charges, will retail for $49.99. The Memory Card Reader, which will allow gamers to transfer their PS2 saves from their memory cards to the PS3 hard drive, will retail for $14.99. Also available will be the Blu-ray Remote, which will sell for $24.99. Tretton also announced that First-party titles will sell for $59.99, but he did not discuss the pricing for third-party titles during his time on stage.
Shifting to the software releasing in the coming months, Phil Harrison, Executive Vice President of SCEE (Sony Computer Entertainment Europe), brought up different developers to demonstrate the PS3’s hardware. Resistance: Fall of Man was demoed to illustrate the processing power of the PS3 during gameplay. During an explosion from a grenade-like weapon, Ted Price of Insomniac Games stopped the action to show how many different calculations were occurring at any given time. Resistance: Fall of Man will also support up to 40 players online, a first in console gaming. NBA 07 was also demonstrated for the crowd, showing off impressive graphics and “sweat shaders” that make the game look photo-realistic.
The PS3’s interface will look almost identical to that of the PSP, featuring the Cross-Media Bar to organize the PS3’s different functions. Players can save numerous user profiles to a PS3 and set parental controls for underage gamers. The PS3 will feature a buddy list to keep track of friends online to set up games, send messages, and more. In addition, the PS3 will also act as an end-all media player for all digital entertainment. It can display photos, play movies and trailers, and rip cds for future listening. All of these media files can also be accessed with your PSP. In time, gamers will be able to access their digital media from anywhere in the world with a Wi-Fi connection according to Harrison.
Showing pictures in a slideshow isn’t “next-gen” as Harrison put it, so the PS3 can instead simulate a scrapbook that renders in real time. You can sift through pictures as if they were actually on a table by moving the camera around and zooming in and out. The Cell processor gets plenty of workout in other areas of the Cross Media Bar as well. The Videos section, for instance, streams real time moving thumbnails while in the menu. Harrison demonstrated this ability with eight or ten thumbnails playing at the same time regardless of whether or not they had been browsed over. A multiple-window browser is also included in the system when you take it out of the box, which is another indication of the Cell’s power according to Harrison.
One mystery leading into the event was Sony’s online strategy and their plans for the online marketplace. When gamers login to the Playstation Store, they will notice any number of windows on the front page. A “What’s New” listing in the top right hand corner alerts gamers to what has recently released on the download service, while a “Top Downloads” window sits just below that to list the most popular downloads out there. Downloads are handled with microtransactions that charge to a wallet tied to your account. Value can be added to your wallet with either a valid credit card or a store-bought Playstation card. After you have paid for a game or episodic content you can log on to up to five different PS3s and download the content you just bought. Trailers and demos will be free to download similar to the Xbox Live service, but the selection of full games for download will include both classic PS1 titles and completely original Indie titles designed exclusively for the Playstation store instead of ports of older classics like we see today on Xbox 360. Individual games may also integrate the Playstation Store into their games themselves, allowing for a more seamless purchasing experience. Sony’s online service is completely free aside from the premium content that you may purchase, so players will have a place to try games for free or download movie trailers as soon as they open the box.
Sony’s Gamer’s Day 2006 continued on with preview demos of many launch titles throughout the building and ended with a performance by rapper Ludacris on stage. Cheat Code Central has gotten its hands on just about every launch title and we will be bringing you our take very soon. We’ll tell you which games we think will be great and which will be a waste of time. Stay tuned!