Sony announces slimmer, cheaper PlayStation 3

After months of rumours and anticipation, Sony is slashing the price of the PlayStation 3.

On top of the price cuts, a new 120GB slimline version of the powerful gaming machine will go on sale here from the beginning of next month for £249.99. The pricing of the current 80GB system will also be reduced.

Sales of the PlayStation 3, which launched in 2006 and cost as much as US$600 at the time, have fallen behind rival consoles. Last week, market researcher NPD Group said US retail stores sold about 122,000 units of the console in July, compared with nearly 203,000 for Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 and more than 252,000 for the Nintendo Co.'s Wii.

Video game software makers hope Sony's price cut will boost game sales ahead of the holidays. So far this year, the industry has suffered from weak sales because of the recession and lacklustre game release schedules, which have kept consumers waiting to spend money on new titles.

Jack Tretton, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, said there is no question the consumer reaction to the cuts will be "phenomenal."

Customers, he said in an interview, "absolutely believe that it's the technologically superior device. (They) absolutely want one but have had trouble justifying the price."

The Wii has cost £179 since its 2006 launch, while Xbox 360 prices start at £129. The basic PS3 model remains more expensive than the cheapest versions of its counterparts.

Console sales for the rest of the year will have to be strong, if not phenomenal, for the video game industry to end 2009 on a high note. Year-to-date, overall sales are down 14 per cent in the US, according to the NPD Group.

Still, analysts anticipate the business will pick up for the holidays, because many hit game launches are planned for the fall.

The PlayStation price cut will also help, as would cuts from the other console makers. Analysts also expect Nintendo to bring down the price of the Wii, though it might be in the way of keeping the price tag at $250 but throwing in more free games.

Tretton compared the spring and summer to the NFL preseason when it comes to video game sales, in that "no one pays attention and no one keeps score."

The PlayStation 3 price cut has been highly anticipated. On Tuesday morning, at least two retailers - Sears and Kmart - seemed to jump the gun on Sony and posted the new prices on their websites.

Sony did not cut the price of its handheld gaming system, the PlayStation Portable. It did, however, announce it is adding a digital reader service that will allow PSP owners to download comics - including content from Marvel Entertainment's Spider-Man, X-Men and the Fantastic Four - beginning in December.

Nintendo had no comment on Sony's or its expected price cut and a representative for Microsoft's Xbox division did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Source: The New Zealand Herald