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Thursday, September 01, 2005
Sony Slams Microsoft Over Two Versions of Xbox 360

Phil Harrison, VP of studios for Sony Computer Entertainment, has critisized Microsoft's recent decision to launch two different versions of their forthcoming Xbox 360.

Microsoft recently announced that the Xbox 360 Core System, which does not include a hard disk, will retail for GBP 209.99 at launch. For GBP 279.99, consumers will be able to purchase a console with a 20GB hard disk, wireless controller, Xbox Live Silver membership, HD-AV cable and removable faceplate.

Speaking at the European Game Developers' Conference today in London, Harrison warned that Microsoft was risking confusing prospective customers. "Are there two versions of the Xbox 360 that people want to buy", is my question,' he enquired. 'I don't know. This is my personal view, not my corporate view, but when I look at those formats, I think it just confuses the audience. They don't know which one to buy, developers don't know which one to create for, and retailers don't know which one to stock.'

This led directly on to the issue of whether Sony would pursue a similar policy for the PlayStation 3, which is expected to launch in Spring 2006. 'I don't think we would take that strategy. We wouldn't want to create confusion,' said Harrison, before rather confusingly adding, 'There have been various versions and variants of PlayStations in the past - some run through the hardware and some through the software, and that's worked pretty well for us, offering different value propositions to the consumer. Exactly what we do with the launch of the PS3? It's too early to tell.' Uhm, that's all clear, then.

However, he later praised Microsoft for the Xbox Live Service when he admitted that, 'Microsoft has done a lot of things right, and there are certainly things that are going to form the model for many of the high quality consumer experiences that we will deliver with PS3.' And just as you thought he was being nice: 'But I think our role is always to go beyond, to push further.'

Nintendo also received some praise from Harrison: 'I briefly played Nintendogs at E3 and I think it's absolutely fantastic. I'm very admiring of what Nintendo have done with that game. I would love for us to go and create that kind of immersion for a game on the PSP.'

On that subject, Harrison was keen to underline how Sony were committed to the development of innovative software, announcing that, 'We do have the privilege of being the platform holder, and of having the opportunity and, I think, the responsibility to invest in more esoteric titles. We have to continue to put creativity and innovation first, otherwise we will turn into a formulaic industry and consumers will go elsewhere.'

Harrison was also defensive of the launch line-up of Sony's PSP handheld, which has been criticised for containing too many ports of older games, as well a few too many racing titles. 'Don't judge the life of the format on the first games that come out for it - remember we launched PS2 with Fantavision. Although it's a lovely piece of software, it's by no means the software that will define the format. I think it's natural that when a format first comes out, the games that you make are the games that you know how to make, because you only have a limited amount of time to make them," Harrison continued. 'Then, the next games to come out on the platform are where the innovation starts to happen. We're doing some things internally and I know a lot of people externally are too. We're really starting to see that innovation coming through on PSP, and it will certainly come through on PS3.'

Unsurprisingly, Harrison declined to comment on a possible price point for the PS3, telling the audience: "It would be foolish of me to make any comments about pricing at this early stage."

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