The next seven days or so may be the biggest ever for the video and PC game industry in the US ever. On Friday, Sony will release their Playstation 3 console in the US (it’s already out in Japan) and on Sunday the US gets to have the world debut of the Nintendo Wii console. You may have seen a few demo units of both consoles start to pop up in various retail stores, the print and billboard ads are spouting up and the TV commercials are beginning to be aired on various broadcast and cable stations. You know this week is going to be huge for the industry when MTV is going to devote a lot of its programming for video game themed shows, and that the normally business cable TV news network CNBC will broadcast a documentary about the industry on Wednesday (by contrast, Microsoft’s big new entertainment product this year, their Zune portable media player, isn’t getting nearly the buzz that the PS3 or the Wii is getting even though the Zune is also scheduled to launch this week).
So what does that mean for you? Will you be able to get a PS3 or a Wii on their launch day and if so what will you be able to do with them? And if you can’t get either of these new consoles are there any games coming out this week for other platforms? That is what this feature is all about.
Sony Playstation 3
We’ve already gone over most of the aspects of the PS3 in previous feature articles so we will just do a hypersonic skim of its main features before getting into the nitty-gritty. The PS3 is, of course, Sony’s latest hardware release in the console market that it has pretty much dominated for 10 years now. The PS3 will come in two versions; a $499 model with a 20GB hard drive and a $599 model with a 60 GB hard drive and two extras that are not in the $499 version; a memory card slot section that supports Memory Stick, SD and Compact Flash cards and integrated WiFi. Both versions support 1080p resolutions on your HDTV (if the TV supports it) with HDMI connections and a Blu-Ray disk drive that plays the new Blu-Ray movies along with PS3 games, PS2 games, PS1 games, DVDs and CDs. The tech specs include the powerful Cell multi-processor along with a graphics chip provided by NVIDIA, 256 MB of RAM, four USB ports, an Ethernet connection and the SIXAXIS PS3 controller which is not only wireless but has movement sensor support.
Sony will also have an online gaming component that will not only let people play online games but also download new content for those games along with game demos, video, music and more. Details on how the online network will work are still something of a mystery even at this late stage but Sony has confirmed that there will be downloadable games for the system, including smaller arcade games a la the Xbox 360’s Xbox Live Arcade and even older PS1 games that people will be able to purchase and download. Playing online multiplayer via the PS3 will be free but some extra content will require extra fees.
The system launches in the US this Friday, November 17. The bad news is that Sony is only planning to ship 400,000 units of the console to stores on that day, thanks mostly to supply problems it has encountered with their Blu-Ray disk drive. Sony has stated it plans to ship 1 million PS3 by the end of the year in the US. The truth is that supply will be scarce even under the most optimistic of Sony’s numbers. So is there a chance that you can get a PS3 on launch day? The short answer is “Yes”. The long answer is, “If you are willing to stand in line for a long time outside of a store, then yes.” Already major retailers like Best Buy and Circuit City are running newspaper ads saying they will be opening their stores early (this Friday at 8 am) at most of their locations and a few of their stores will have midnight openings for the console. Many Wal-Mart stores across the country are open 24 hours a day so you can expect to see some sales around midnight Friday at those stores. The best way to see if your favorite retail store will carry the PS3 is to just call them this week or go by the store as soon as you can and ask the manager how he or she will be handling the PS3 sales on Friday. You can also ask when can you start standing in line to get one. Don’t rely too much on info posted up on the Internet as they can sometimes come from sources that are less than reliable.