August 20, 2009

PlayStation 3 Slim: Will Less Be More for Sony?

Troy Benedict Says A new, slimmer PlayStation 3 was officially announced this week. On August 18, 2009, during the Sony press conference at this year’s Gamescom, a trade fair for interactive games and entertainment held in Germany, the new PlayStation 3 Slim was unveiled. The new system is scheduled to be released on September 1, 2009 to North American retailers with the price tag of $299. The PlayStation 3 Slim features a 120GB hard drive, is 33% smaller, 36% lighter, and consumes 34% less power than current models. Additionally, a 250GB version of the Slim model was also filed with the FCC, but no official statement was made regarding it.

A thinner version of the PlayStation 3 has been rumored for quite some time, thanks in part to the release of some digital photographs claiming to show the packaging of a smaller PlayStation 3. Prior to Sony’s official announcement on Tuesday, listings for a PlayStation 3 Slim began surfacing on some online retail sites, which created a buzz throughout the online gaming community that an announcement was eminent.

It’s no secret that sales for the PlayStation 3 have been underwhelming since its release in November 2007. The biggest problem was the outrageous price tag. Early production costs for the original PlayStation 3 models exceeded $800, with the first two systems released to the North American market at $499 (20GB) and $599 (60GB)! Sony was losing at least $300 on every PlayStation 3 system that was sold!

Earlier this month during a meeting with investors, Sony’s CEO Nobuyuki Oneda stated that the PlayStation 3 was now 70% cheaper to build. This announcement of cheaper productions costs also created rumors that a more-competitive price drop for the system was forthcoming.
The PlayStation 3 Slim may very well be the catalyst that helps spur better sales of Sony’s struggling system. In a market where smaller and thinner is better (just see Apple Computers and their line of products), the PlayStation 3 Slim couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only will it be more competitively priced, it’s also “greener.” It will take up one-third less vertical space in the cabinets of your entertainment center, is one-third lighter, and consumes one-third less power than previous models. The new design also appears to be 100% less finger-print prone than its older brethren (but don’t quote me on that)!

It’s obvious that when something is made smaller, a few things need to be discarded. So, what is missing from the PlayStation 3 Slim that was included with the more-recent full-sized models? Surprisingly, the answer is “not a whole lot!”

Most noticeably missing from the Slim is the ability to install a third-party operating system, such as Linux, on the machine. This feature never really garnered a lot of mainstream attention, but I have to admit that I’m a bit baffled why this software-related feature was removed. Perhaps allowing for an alternate Operating System is due, in part, to a possible incompatibility with the redesigned cooling system and updated Cell processor?

Still included are the two USB ports on the front of the system, as well as the standard power, network, and audio/video ports in the back.

Unfortunately, high-definition cables will not be included. This is not a surprise, though. No PlayStation 3 system has ever been sold with HD cables in the box. Then again, the new packaging of the Xbox 360 Elite apparently will no longer include HD component cables, either.

As a personal aside, I think it’s much more forgivable for Microsoft NOT to include HD cables with the Xbox 360, than Sony with the PlayStation 3, specifically because of the inclusion of Blu-ray player on all PlayStation 3 models.

Tech geeks can breathe a sigh of relieve as the PlayStation 3 Slim hard drive can still be upgraded, as long as you have a little bit of computer know-how.

But even with the new slimmer model and a more competitive price tag, will this be enough to help boost sales for the PlayStation 3?

Last week, the video game sales figures for July 2009 were released by NPD Group, which showed an industry-wide decline for the fifth month in a row. The NPD Group also stated that hardware sales have slowed considerably for nearly all platforms, with the Xbox 360 being the only system showing a unit sales increase year-to-date.

If the competitor’s systems aren’t selling as many copies at price points of $199 (for Microsoft’s budget-priced Xbox 360 Arcade) and $250 (for Nintendo’s Wii), is $299 for a PlayStation 3 Slim still going to be a bit expensive?

If Nintendo’s model of releasing redesigned hardware, to spur interest and sales, especially with its line of DS systems, says anything then, yes, Sony may very well see a surge spike in sales that they so desperately need. It is one thing to release the same system with a bigger hard drive, but it’s another thing to release a completely redesigned system with a bigger hard drive. I’ve already seen a lot of interest with some gaming enthusiasts (including press) who have stated that they are considering purchasing the PlayStation 3 Slim, even though they already own a PlayStation 3.

What are my thoughts? Will I purchase one? The answer to that is: no. While I admire the redesign, and I wish Sony all the best with this new system, my current PlayStation 3 works fine. I am, however, hoping to reap the rewards in the next several years of the benefits that boosted sales figures might bring with the Slim. More PlayStation 3 sales equal more people owning PlayStation 3 systems, and more people using the system, make the PlayStation 3 attractive to developers and publishers. Perhaps we’ll see better, more exclusive games over the next couple years.

What are your thoughts about the PlayStation 3 Slim? If you don’t already own one, will this new hardware release help encourage you to buy it? If you already own a PlayStation 3, are you considering buying a Slim, as well?