Leaks from Kmart and Future Shop confirm variant is not EU-exclusive

Clearly not a fan of the "if it isn't broken, don't fix it" ideology, Sony Corp. (TYO:6758) has taken the PlayStation 3 console through over 400 different permutations with various price points, hard drive sizes, internal hardware functionality, and even console sizes.  The latest version -- the PS3 Superslim -- aired last October.

While Sony is gearing up for the launch of the PlayStation 4 during the Q4 holiday season, the Japanese giant has gone back to the drawing board for one last remix of the tried-and-true PS3, introducing a variant with no traditional hard disc drive, but 12 GB of NAND flash storage.

At its launch in 2006 Sony offered 20 and 60 GB variants of the console, which have since been bumped to 250 GB and 500 GB.  Sony's rival Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) launched a 4 GB flash variant of its Xbox 360 console in Aug. 2010, which allowed it to hit the attractive price point of $199 USD (Sony's 250 GB PS3 is currently priced at $259).  The cheaper variant, in part, helped Microsoft emerge as the top seller on a monthly basis last year.

Nintendo Comp., Ltd.'s (TYO:7974Wii (512 MB) and Wii U (8 GB standard/32 GB premium) consoles also feature flash memory.

Originally the 12 GB PS3 was intended to be only for the Europe and Hong Kong (PAL) markets.  Sony Computer Entertainment's American marketing VP, John Koller told Engadget last year:

The smaller Flash drive isn't coming to North America, and a lot of that reason is the digital consumer. We really want to make sure, out of the box, that there is an option for them to be able to download that content. That is really critical for us, very very important.

But it appears Sony must have changed its mind internally, as Candian retailer Future Shop broke embargo and posted the console as "in stock" as of Tuesday.  

PS3 12 GB flash Future Shop
[Image Source: Engadget]
The page has since been pulled, down but a leaked image of a 12 GB PS3 box from a retail store of Sears Holding Corp. (SHLD) subsidiary Kmart in the U.S. has also subsequently leaked, seemingly confirming the rumor that the flash-equipped PS3 will launch in North America on Aug. 18 (Sunday) (although Canada may see a launch first, late this week).

PS3 Flash 12 GB Kmart
A 12 GB PS3 flash model at a Kmart store [Image Source: Engadget]

The new variant is $70 USD cheaper than the next cheapest set of PS3 price points, but customers should be aware that Sony is offering the both the 250 GB and 500 GB consoles with a game (Grand Theft Auto V, Assassin's Creed III, Grand Turismo 5, Uncharted 3, or God of War Ascension) for $270 USD.  The 250 GB consoles also come with a free year of Playstation Plus online service.  The flash PS3 is not expected to be bundled with any such extra goodies.

Source: Engadget

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