Sony on Tuesday moved to head off a public relations disaster by announcing which older PlayStation 2 games will work on the European version of the PlayStation 3 console due out on Friday.
Sony said last month that the PS3 model to be launched in Europe would lack a chip used in the earlier models introduced in Japan and North America in November last year.
The function of the chip would be replaced by software, making the console cheaper to produce but taking away the almost full backward compatibility enabling PS2 games to play on PS3.
Sony's website http://faq.eu.playstation.com/bc
lists games that should work. "If your game is not listed here, emulation is not yet supported on PlayStation 3," it says.
The acceptance of the new PS3, with reduced compatibility, will have a big impact on Sony's earnings. Sony loses money on selling the consoles but has said it hopes to reach break even toward the second half of the next business year through cost savings in areas like chip production.
More than 115 million PlayStation 2 consoles have been shipped worldwide, and almost two million of its successor PS3 were shipped between its launch and end-December. One million PS3 are available for the European launch.
In order to play the old games, the new PlayStation 3 owners will first need to install a new firmware on their new device. The software can be downloaded from the Internet or obtained on a disc from the customer service unit.
The new firmware for the PS3 (v1.60) enables several other features on the PS3, including a program to use the PS3's powerful Cell processor to participate in a protein research project from Stanford University, as well as support for Bluetooth wireless keyboards and mice and an optional full on-screen keyboard. The software is already available
to Japanese owners of PS3.
In related news, Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer Stringer acknowledged that the video game console, which starts at $499, had to be priced higher than Microsoft's XBox 360 and Nintendo's Wii because of the Blu-ray player inside.
"If PlayStation 3 doesn't reach the next level, it will be because of Sony's decision to include a Blu-ray HDTV DVD player," Stringer said in a recent interview with the TV program, CEO Exchange.
"If we fail, it is because we positioned PS3 sales as the Mercedes of the videogame field," Stringer added.