Sony said on Monday it would begin selling its PlayStation 3 video game console in November for $499 in North America, challenging Microsoft's early dominance in the market for next-generation machines.
Sony's standard PS3 will have a 20-gigabyte hard drive and debut on November 11 in Japan and November 17 in most of the rest of the world. The unit will retail for 59,800 yen ($536) in Japan and 499 euros ($634) in Europe.
Video game fans have been waiting to see what Sony would offer, and especially at what price, in order to decide whether to wait for the PS3 or buy an Xbox 360 now.
Sony will also sell a PS3 with a 60-gigabyte hard drive for $599 in the United States. All Sony's units will include a Blu-ray high-definition DVD player. Microsoft's premium Xbox 360 package, which does not include an advanced DVD player and has a 20-gigabyte hard drive, costs $400, by comparison.
The larger hard drive allows users to store more games, music and other downloaded content onto the PS3, while some software developers said the extra storage capacity allowed the machine to load games faster.
The PlayStation 3 will be equipped with a "Cell" processor, jointly developed with IBM and Toshiba, which is about 35 times faster than the existing PlayStation 2 consoles and about twice as quick as the Xbox 360. It will also have a Blu-ray ROM drive. However, the lack of an HDMI output in the first generation of the device could make playback of HD Video content more complicated.
The Japanese electronics giant also showed off a motion-sensitive wireless controller, a feature similar to the controllers being offered by Nintendo in its upcoming Wii game machine.
Sony's Bluetooth-powered motion-sensitive wireless controller is shaped like the controller for the current generation machine, but the advanced controller can shift objects in games when a player moves the unit, without pushing buttons.
The controller for PS3 employs a highly sensitive six-axis sensing system that does not require any devices other than the controller itself for interactive operation, thus eliminating additional settings to TVs.
In addition to the ?3-posture-axis? of roll, pitch and yaw, ?3-dimension acceleration information (X, Y, and Z)? can be detected in real-time.
Pursuant to the introduction of this new six-axis sensing system, the vibration feature that is currently available on DUALSHOCK and DUALSHOCK 2 controllers for PlayStation and PlayStation 2, will be removed from the new PS3 controller as vibration itself interferes with information detected by the sensor.
The shape of L2/R2 buttons located on the top of the controller has also been enlarged with increased depth in stroke for more subtle control in games. At the same time, the tilting angle of the analog joy sticks has been slightly broadened to enable more delicate and more dynamic manipulation. Along with these improvements, precision of above information detection (L2/R2, analog joy stick) has been increased from 8 bit to 10 bit.
All input information will be immediately transferred to the PS3 system through the Bluetooth wireless technology. By using a USB cable, the PS3 controller can be swapped seamlessly from wireless to wired, and can be charged automatically. The cable can be attached and detached at anytime.
In a demonstration, a virtual duck lifted out of a tub of water when the controller was jerked upward. Finally, it supports USB, Sony memory sticks, secure digital (SD) and CompactFlash.
Meanwhile, Sony also announced a plethora of games that will be available either at launch or shortly thereafter.
Among the publishers it showcased was Electronic Arts, whose CEO Larry Probst, appeared on stage and said that his company was working on 10 titles for PS3 including new versions of "Madden NFL," "NBA" and "Tiger Woods PGA."
Sony expects to hit the market with 2 million PS3 consoles at launch and a total of 4 million by the end of December 2006. Analysts expect Microsoft to ship up to 8 million Xbox 360 units before Sony launches the PS3.
The success of the PS3 is crucial for Sony as a company.
At stake is not only continued dominance in the game industry but leadership in the next generation of DVDs, the commercial viability of the Cell processor that powers the PS3 and possibly control over the future living-room electronics around the world.