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L.A. Update: We’re having trouble letting go

It’s been a long, hard day of trashing Sony’s PlayStation 3 announcements, but the hardest adjustment for us PS3week staffers is communicating in person — in spoken words — now that we’re in the same city for a week. We’re so used to our long-distance AIM relationship, that we’ve been IMing each other across the apartment for hours. Here’s a clip:

yp0pgo (rob): omg did u hear about ps3?
san t0 alt 5 (dave): what are the features?
yp0pgo: shit shit and shit, then u need the $100 upgrade
san t0 alt 5: how much is the $100 upgrade?
yp0pgo: 9,000 yen
san t0 alt 5: is that in US dollars?
yp0pgo: euros
san t0 alt 5: i seriously think it should include a memory card i love those
yp0pgo: nah those are for rich kids
san t0 alt 5: loook where ur at biatch
san t0 alt 5: im craving buffalo wings
san t0 alt 5: did you hear me?
san t0 alt 5: dont make me open my mouth

God, we’re nerds. And we’re going to get some wings.

Somebody Else’s System

Sony made two huge announcements today — a new controller and an official launch scheme. Too bad neither one was their idea.


The two-tier pricing system, pioneered in the console world by the Xbox 360, is a dubious plan at best. Does Sony really need to lure deep-pocketed gamers to a $600 system with the promise of some extra hard drive space? Are those extra 40 gigs really worth the cost of two launch games?


We’re guessing no — at least not until a few years down the road, when you’ll probably be able to buy an add-on for less than the $100 tag of the higher-end system.

The top-tier PS3 costs $600 — and in Europe, it’s gonna be more like $760. So now Sony’s not just releasing the most expensive console ever, it’s releasing the two most expensive consoles ever. There’s probably some element of economic reverse-psychology here, intended to make the expensive PS3 even more coveted than the normal one. But it comes at the expense of simplicity, and we’d much rather have a bunch of gamers with 20-gig systems and two extra games than a swarm of confused moms wandering around Best Buy.

Update: The lower-tier PS3 lacks a few more options that we didn’t pick up on during the press conference. No WiFi, no HDMI video output, and no memory stick slots! The PlayStation 3, as it is meant to be, really does cost $600. (Full specs on the last page of this press release.)

Consumers already have plenty of consoles to choose from this Christmas. Confusing the issue with two PlayStation 3s is one trick that Sony should have left up Microsoft’s sleeve.


We never thought it’d come to this. The boomerang controller got a lot of bad press, we know. And the Nintendo Wii’s real-space controller is awesome, there’s no question. So rather than create something new or innovative, Sony tacked on a last-minute addition to the Dual Shock 2 — it’s now equipped with a Wii-like (or, perhaps more accurately, a Nintendo DS-like) gyroscope. So when you “steer” by moving your controller through space, your spaceship turns appropriately. And when you steal ideas from your more innovative competitors, you look like the corporate behemoth with hardly a breath of wind left in its creative sails.

Sony couldn’t have given Nintendo a greater compliment today, and the guys on stage couldn’t have sounded more disingenuous when they were playing it off as their own idea. We’re excited about this new technology too, Phil. That’s why we call it the Revolution.

Update: By the way, the addition of the motion sensor means the controller will no longer rumble.

Sony shouldn’t be feeling this much heat — after all, they’re still riding the hugely dominant PS2 into the next generation. But apparently they’re scared. That’s why they’ve slapped together Microsoft’s price structure and Nintendo’s controller. Maybe if they rip off everything the other guys have, and throw in some Blu-ray, it’ll be worth $599.

Launch Dates and Prices

Japan: November 11
• 20 GB - 58,900 Yen (US $536)
• 60 GB - Priced by retailers

North America: November 17
• 20 GB - US $499, CN $549
$bull; 60 GB - US $599, CN $659

Europe/Australia: November 19 No date yet?
• 20 GB - 499 Euros (US $633)
• 60 GB - 599 Europs (US $760)

Got that? The only difference between the two “models,” apparently, is the size of the hard drive - 20 gigs vs. 60 gigs. That translates to a $100 price difference for the American PS3 … for comparison’s sake, that’s the same as the difference between a 30-gig and 60-gig iPod.

(Also, we didn’t hear a price in Australian dollars… did you?)

Who knows if it’ll be worth it to pick up the larger hard drive right away - or when an add-on to soup up your storage space will come along. The two-tier price system, however, is obviously ripped off from Microsoft’s Xbox 360’s similar price structure. We’ll get into what else they ripped off (think boomerang) from their competitors a few posts down the road.

Sony’s E3 Press Conference

We’re not there, but we’re liveblogging from a nearby couch!

Kaz Hirai defends the delay in a roundabout way, and adds, “The next generation doesn’t start until we say it does.” Or until we get bored and buy an Xbox 360.

Bunch of stuff about PS2 sales, yada yada yada. Sony will be making new PS2 games for many years to come.

By the way, G4 TV, which is supposedly “covering” E3 this year and is probably somewhere around channel 150 on your digital cable, is running an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation right now.

Let’s take a look at some PSP titles. Ape Academy 2??? No way!

PlayStation commercial featuring 20-somethings in Times Square, an older dude in London, some people in Australia, talking about all the awesome things about the PlayStation brand and the PS3. We’re sure these are real interviews. A girl in a Japanese shopping mall is “looking forward to how graphics will evolve on the PS3.” This commercial may actually have been filmed at Epcot Center.

On to PlayStation 3… sweet.


(Woo, we’ve never seen this Star Trek episode before. Hope the holodeck doesn’t malfunction!)

Ken says a bunch of technical jargon, followed by, “so, what does all this mean?” Good question. Tells us how great Blu-ray is. PS3 will ship with a hard drive. 10,000 dev kits have shipped. Playable games at the Sony booth, awesome.

Phil Harrison’s up. God, his accent is hot. The creator of Gran Turismo will now speak in translated Japanese and show off a GT prototype. Scattered applause. Several minutes of race footage prove that the graphics are good. The big thing seems to be that it’s all done in HD. Also, the load time is faster than on PS2.

The Grand Canyon track is pretty cool, especially since the spectators lining the road run for cover when you swerve toward the edge of the track. And the view’s not so bad either. GT HD will hopefully come out “not too far from the launch of the PS3.”

Phil’s back, and he has some playing cards in his hand. The creator of eyeToy will now show off the “eye of judgement.” This is pretty sweet. A videocamera recognizes each real-life playing card as a character, and manifests them on screen. Like all those magic card games, but in 3D.

Ken talks about online gaming, Star Trek goes to commercial. PS3 will create an online “society, or community.” PSP will be able to directly download and emulate old PS1 games from the Sony network. Gee, which game is it? IT’S RIDGE RACER! RIIIIIDGE RACER!

Apparently you can buy new levels and weapons and stuff through PS3’s online system. Is that good or bad? Phil shows off Singstar, which is playing a Good Charlotte song. You can download and buy music for this karaoke game in an iTunes-esque way. Includes music video in HD. (He’s chosen Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” for song 2.) Oh god, you can also record and upload your karaoke video… I guess they’ve been checking out YouTube.

Now on display, a game where you kill lots of things in Dynasty Warriors fashion. “First I’m going to have to defeat this large enemy character here.”

(Dave adds from the other side of the apartment, “I think I’m more impressed with the Gamespot octopus.” Captain Picard looks pissed.)

What the hell? In the new Formula 1 game, you can use your PSP as a rear-view mirror while playing PS3 on your TV. A REAR VIEW MIRROR? That’s what the “content producers” made from all this cutting edge technology?

Phil describes Lair, which we thought was a launch title, as one of the “games that are a little further out.” Out of this world? Or out of time before launch? Trailers for “Getaway” and “Afrika.” Hey, there was a giraffe. And now, crazy cartoon golf, which is actually the most interesting trailer we’ve seen thus far.

Here we go, two new titles: Eight Days looks like a pretty cool hitman / mafia / renegade game where two guys speed around in a bullet-ridden car fucking shit up in the Arizona desert and blowing up oil tankers. You’ve seen this in hundreds of movies, but still, it’s lookin’ good.

In the next game, a guy who is dressed like he just got out of a Ben Folds concert is running around jungle ruins knocking dudes out with the butt of his shotgun and searching for some lost treasure.

In another new-ish game, Resistance: Fall of Man, we get a cool revision of history where World War II never happens, but somehow Europe is overrun by aliens (or something) and you have to save England, the last free state. Looks like a Call of Duty upgrade. War is awesome.

(A new episode of Star Trek has begun.)

Now we race through some third-party titles with trailers about 20 seconds long: Assassin’s Creed, Gundam something, Coded Arms Assault (”commence hacking!”), something that I think was Ridge Racer, Brother in Arms, Tekken 6, Sonic, Virtua Tennis 3, Virtua Fighter 5, Stranglehold (starring Chow Yun Fat)… and our feed is dead! Damn you, Gamespot, don’t make us leave the couch!

EA big shot Larry Probst takes the stage. “The results … is inspiring.” And now, some EA Sports games. They’re working on a lot of cool stuff to make players move more realistically (and plant their feet correctly). Live basketball gameplay looks really, really good.

Next up, an alarmingly realistic “UCap” recreation of Tiger Woods, which looks great, but also lands about as deep in the uncanny valley as we’ve ever seen.

Wow, the new MGS4 trailer looks awesome, seems to involve AT-STs, and, at the end, Snake puts a pistol in his mouth. Does he kill himself? We’ll find out in 2007.

By the way, I’ve been calling Kaz “Ken” up until this point. Sorry, guys. Ken Kutaragi is up now, and he’s talking about the controller. Boomerang… or something better?

IT’S EXACTLY THE SAME! ZING!!! Screw you, boomerang. Let’s see “what it can do.” Apparently, you can control objects by physically moving the controller, obviously taking a page from the once-revolutionary Nintendo Wii. Phil keeps saying “six degrees of movement,” which basically translate to “if you wave the controller around, things will happen on screen, because buttons are so passe.”

A total Wii ripoff? Yeah, big time. We’ll opine in depth after we get to play them both this week. Man, it is exactly the Revolution controller idea. It looks cool, though, and now inexperienced gamers who try to “steer” their controller will actually get some results.

How can they honestly stand up there and pretend like this was their idea? Jesus. First the boomerang, now Grand Theft Controller.

One last thing: Global Launch.

The cheap PS3 tier will ship with a 20 gig hard drive, and the expensive version will have a 60 gig hard drive.

Japan: Nov. 11. 20 gig = 59800 yen. For the 60 gig, retailers will set the price. Thoughts on this coming soon.

US & Canada: Nov. 17. 20 gig = 499 US, 549 CN. 60 gig = 599 US, 659 CN.

Europe/Australia: Nov 19. 20 gig = 499 euros, 60 gig = 599 euros.

Sony will ship 2 million worldwide during “launch period,” total of 4 million by end of december. another 2 million during first quarter. total of 6 mil by end of march.

Not too shabby. And now, the people who actually showed up get to try out the playable PS3s. We’ll keep watching Star Trek. Watch out for more columns on the launch plans and the controller theft coming soon.

Breaking! Sony Delays Something!

Much like the new console whose secrets it will eventually reveal, the Sony E3 press conference is running a little late. We hear the event is overflowing with eager journalists and fanboys, and it’s been pushed back an hour to accomodate them all.

We, on the other hand, will be watching from the comfort of David’s apartment on this live feed, which hopefully will afford us a much better and more convenient view, whenever things get started. So while we recover from our collective cross-country flights and nights out in Vegas drinking ink-filled wine with Swedish twins, we’ll keep you updated on Sony’s announcements.

We love the way you say “L.A.”

We’re hittin’ the clear blue skies this morning on the way to E3 in Los Angeles, so watch this spot for updates throughout the week, and hopefully some debauchery totally unrelated to the giant gaming expo. Stay tuned!

TDK’s first Blu-ray discs hit the shelves

TDK is shipping its first 25- and 50-gig Blu-ray discs, in both writeable and rewriteable formats.


The Blu-ray disc format, which will be used for all PlayStation 3 games, is slowly but surely hitting the market on the PC side, today with an announcement from TDK that it is shipping its first cartridge-free 50- and 25-gigabyte discs.

The price for a single 25 GB BD-R disc is $19.99, and it shoots all the way up to $59.99 for a 100 GB BD-RE (rewriteable). Obviously that’s way out of any reasonable consumer’s price range, but hopefully some early adopters will enjoy the new format and its extravagant prices will come down before the PS3 brings the format mainstream for both games and movies.

Here’s some press-release babble; click below for the full press release with all the specs, and links to a bit more coverage.

“TDK is pleased to be the first to market with bare Blu-ray Disc media, which can be counted among the most significant product introductions in the company’s distinguished 70 year history,” noted Bruce Youmans, TDK Vice President of Marketing.

• Press Release from TDK
• TDK Blu-ray media now shipping [Joystiq]

EARLIER: Our take on the raging battle between Blu-ray and HD-DVD.

PS3 needs to tighten its belt

From the rumor mill: PS3 is too big to fit in its case, Sony’s still bidding on parts, and the OS might take up tons of memory.


Thanks to reports from a few different sources, things aren’t looking any better for PS3 development today than they have been for the last few months. The newest updates center around the system being too big for its britches, and still very much unfinished.

• The Inquirer tells a tale of a PS3 that’s far behind in development because Sony is still bidding on parts and the system is too big to fit in the case that’s been on display at all the trade events.

We are about six months from launch, and debugging should be done, prototypes and dev kits should flow like water, and all the tame magazines should already have one. The situation is rather different though, they are nowhere, and there are two related reasons behind this.

• Meanwhile, our friends over at PS3 Portal have broken some news about the PS3’s operating system, particularly the fact that it uses a ton of memory and processing power and runs constantly in the background of every game. Based on PS3 Portal’s numbers, which it obtained from unnamed industry sources, the difference compared to the requirements to run Xbox 360’s similar OS is quite dramatic and quite discouraging. Check out all the big numbers right here.

• Sony Playstation 3 is far from complete [The Inquirer]
• Exclusive - Inside the PS3 - Updated [PS3 Portal]

Shortage economics = bad news for you

We already know there’s going to be a PS3 shortage when the system launches worldwide in November. Is there any answer?


Joystiq has posted an insightful — and depressing — conversation with a mom & pop gaming retailer on the economics of a console shortage. When the Xbox 360 was in extraordinarily scarce supply last holiday season, the store owner stopped selling 360s on his shelves, and put them all on eBay. He fetched double the retail value on all of those units, and apparently plans to do the same thing with the PlayStation 3.

We already know that the first month’s worldwide shipment of PS3s will be about 1 million, which means the U.S. and Canada will probably get a little less than half of that (the rest will go to Japan and Europe). Although Sony’s production plans put it a little bit ahead of the Xbox 360’s disastrous launch shortage, there’s still no question that there will be far too few PS3s for the first few months it’s on the market.

So what do we do? Is there any way for consumers, retailers or manufacturers to solve this problem, or should we just accept it and get in line, like we do for a sold-out blockbuster film? During the Xbox shortage, one of our favorite online mags ran a series on Xbox economics (part 1, part 2), which started off with a premise we know all too well:

Yet, for economists, the Xbox 360 crisis is more alarming than a conspiracy, because these supply shortages make no economic sense whatsoever. Despite their suspicious regularity, the shortages benefit nobody.

The series offers up a few suggestions, like raising the retail price or selling the whole first shipment directly through auctions, so that Sony/Microsoft can pocket the difference, rather than giving it to guys like Joystiq’s local game retailer. It also applies a nice quote from Napoleon on the whole conspiracy theory thing: “Never attribute to conspiracy that which can be explained by incompetence.”

It’s that incompetence that will prevent Sony from experimenting with our favorite shortage-busting plan: launch in the summer. Hardcore, early-adopting gamers obviously make up an important part of PS3 sales, but Best Buy is swamped because parents need a Christmas present, and a next-gen console is the coolest new thing.

If Sony could have actually achieved a spring or summer launch, as they had planned, they might have seen less of a rush from the holiday-shopping crowd. And although that wouldn’t alleviate the lines at the store, it’d take away the “I didn’t get what I wanted for Christmas” aspect of it all, which is the horror that causes grown men and women to get in fistfights over Tickle Me Elmos.

Launch it in June, and by the time the holidays roll around, there will be so many PS3s on shelves that every little kid in the world will be happy. And maybe we won’t get extorted by store owners!

• Mom & Pop plot to screw you out of a PS3… and put food on their table [Joystiq]

PS3 at E3: Not so much?

Rumor has it that playable PS3 kiosks will be in limited supply at the biggest gaming expo of the year.


In news that matters way more for members of the media than for the average gamer, Spong has been reporting that numerous sources say that Sony will have very few playable PS3’s on the floor for the Electronic Entertainment Expo, leading to long lines and perhaps scores of disappointed nerds. We would let this slide, but coupled with the whole booth babe elimination thing, it’s pure blasphemy!

Sony insists that everything is cool. Here’s what they have to say:

“We are expecting big queues to see the PlayStation 3 and so will be taking great care to manage the crowds in the best way possible. All press will certainly have no problems seeing everything we are showing. This year is going to be huge for us. Not just in terms of what we’re showing, but in the major announcements we have planned.”

God, we love it when people say “queue.” See ya in line!

• PS3 at E3? Scarcely… [Guardian]