Issue 2: Two SKUs
Last November, Microsoft launched two versions of the Xbox 360; one with the hard drive and one without. Many people wondered why Microsoft would make this move. While the official word from Microsoft was that they wanted to give consumers a choice, the truth is that without the hard drive, the biggest feature of the Xbox 360 is cut. Accessing Xbox Live and the ability to download patches, demos, movies, and add-ons for games is perhaps the single biggest thing that the Xbox 360 has going for it, and without the hard drive the consumer would not have access to those features. It hurt game developers as well since they have to assume while making games that the person playing it might not have a hard drive.
Sonyís PS3 will have hard drives on both of its versions but thatís perhaps the only positive aspect of their two versions of the console. The $499 version will not have several features that the $599 version will have, including no native WiFi support, no SD or CompactFlash card slots and most importantly for owners of HDTVs no HDMI connection. Unlike the Xbox 360's hard drive, you canít go and buy an add-on to upgrade your PS3 to support these features later on. You have to buy the $599 version to have all those features included.
Once again, Sony wants to put the illusion of choice to the consumer but the choices they are giving them represent no choice at all for hardcore gamers. They will want the $599 version or none at all. Since the PS3 will sell to the hardcore gamer first before the general consumer whatís the point in offering the $499 version when Sony could likely sell all of their units in the first few months with only the $599 available?
We thought that Sony might learn some lessons from Microsoftís mistake but they didnít. As a result, those $499 versions might be sitting around the local game retailer on launch day while the $599 will be snatched up.
Issue 3: Technology
For the PS3, the two big features of the console will be the Cell multiprocessor and the Blu-Ray disk drive. Both features are the likely reason why Sony is asking so much for the console on launch day but they could hurt the PS3 in the long run.
The Cell multiprocessor is indeed a powerful chip, or rather eight processor units along with another 64 bit unit. According to Sonyís specs it will run at over 4 GHz and will have the theoretical performance of over 256 Gigaflops. In short, it seems to be something that game developers are itching to use. Yet at E3 when Sony actually showed real PS3 games in motion (and not the CGI movies of E3 2005 like the notorious Killzone trailer) the overall looks of the games were about as good as the currently available Xbox 360 titles. Thatís to be expected in some ways since first generation games on any console tend not to fully utilize the hardware.