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The entire PlayStation 2 Emotion Engine and Graphics Synthesizer as found on the current North American PS3 motherboard
European PS3 to have inferior backwards compatibility compared to North American and Japanese models

Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) announced that the PlayStation 3 to be launched in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Australasia on March 23, 2007 will utilize a “new hardware specification.” Presumably, the new specification will differ from all the currently released PlayStation 3 consoles launched in Japan and North America.

In a press release issued by SCEE, the company describes the main features of the system that are common knowledge, and adds that the Euro-spec machine “also embodies a new combination of hardware and software emulation which will enable PS3 to be compatible with a broad range of original PlayStation titles and a limited range of PlayStation 2 titles.”

The European PS3 will lack the Emotion Engine and Graphics Synthesizer (EE+GS) chip necessary to provide hardware-based backwards compatibility for previous-generation titles. Instead, Sony plans to accomplish compatibility with older games through software emulation—a trickier and more fickle feat than simply including and utilizing PS2 processors.

“The Emotion Engine has been removed and that function has been replaced with software,” said Nick Sharples, a spokesman for Sony in London. That has a “slightly detrimental effect” on compatibility, he said to the IDG News Service.

“The backwards compatibility is not going to be as good as the U.S. and Japan models,” another Sony spokesman said to Reuters.

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has been using a software emulation scheme since inception to make its system backwards compatible with original Xbox games. While Microsoft has promised that it will continue working on improving backwards compatibility through system updates, the Xbox 360 is only able to play from a limited list of older games.

Gamers keen on exploring PlayStation’s extensive back catalog will be disappointed to find that their upcoming European PS3s will only be able to play a limited selection of previous generation games. Sony isn’t viewing backwards compatibility on the PS3 as a priority, and says that new generation games should be the system’s main focus.

“PS3 is first and foremost a system that excels in playing games specifically designed to exploit the power and potential of the PS3 system,” said David Reeves, President of SCEE. “Games designed for PS3 offer incredible graphics quality, stunning gameplay and massively improved audio and video fidelity that is simply not achievable with PS and PS2 games.”

Sony Europe defends its decision by saying that the costs savings of backwards compatibility will be put back into other company investments.

“Rather than concentrate on PS2 backwards compatibility, in the future, company resources will be increasingly focused on developing new games and entertainment features exclusively for PS3, truly taking advantage of this exciting technology,” stated Reeves.

Analysts have estimated that Sony loses $241 on every 60GB PS3—the only version available for the March 23 launch. Word of a cost-cutting strategy came from Japan earlier this month, which points to Sony’s strong desire to improve its bottom line.

The hardware changes to the European PS3 represent the first step taken to reduce costs. “If we are able to reduce the production cost, it has a follow-on effect” on the selling price, Sharples said. But the new, less costly PS3 aimed at Europe carries one of the priciest stickers for the system, revealing a contradiction in the Sony representative’s statement. In Europe, the lone 60GB PS3 is priced €599 (US$786) or £425 (US$830), and for Australia $999 (US$791)—more expensive than the North American and Japanese PS3 consoles equipped with the EE+GS chip.

Sony Computer Entertainment America executives have gone on record to say the PS3 will be “difficult to cost reduce,” and that any reductions that do occur will not immediately translate to lower prices. Furthermore, iSuppli estimates that the EE+GS chip carries a material cost of $27, leaving some to question the cost/benefit of the chip’s removal.

While SCEE preaches the cost-savings advantage of the new hardware specification, it now must divert resources to individually tweak and perform QA for each PlayStation 2 game to be emulated by the PS3 hardware. Sony would not comment on which games will be compatible with PS3’s new software emulation, but did say that gamers will be able to check whether their titles are compatible with PS3 at a special European backwards compatibility site starting March 23.

Sony Europe also said that previous-generation games not initially playable on the European PS3 might eventually be emulated as the company releases firmware updates. "It would be reasonable to assume that the better-selling games are the ones we will be putting effort into," Sharples said.

The creation of a differing hardware specification for Europe and other territories splits the PlayStation 3 manufacturing into another separate line. There are currently two variations of the PS3, differing in hard drive size, memory card reader and wireless connectivity. The European spec would add a third, unless Sony has plans to do away with the EE+GS chips in all PS3s worldwide.

SCEA remains mum on whether or not the hardware revision will apply in its own market. When contacted by DailyTech for comment on the future plans for North American PS3s, a representative stated, “We have no announcement regarding any hardware specification changes for PS3 in North America at this time.”

Regardless of what future hardware revisions may come, Sony of America and Japan are expected to continue support for over 1.48 million EE+GS-included PlayStation 3 consoles currently in the hands of North American and Japanese gamers.

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By Mithan on 2/25/2007 5:55:42 PM , Rating: 5
This has nothing to do with the article, but can anybody remember when the last time was that we actually read something good about Sony?

Talk about mis-firing for the last two years.

Root Kits, arrogance, crappy launch games, over priced systems, delays, more arrogance, retarded controllers, no rumbel packs, over priced cables, stupid comments from executives, Blu-Ray, low launch supplies, ebay whoring... etc, etc, etc

It's just keeps coming.

I suppose next week we will be reading how they are phasing the EE out for the North American versions as well, so as to refine their production lines more and cut costs.

*Grabs more popcorn*

RE: Interesting
By glenn8 on 2/25/2007 5:58:22 PM , Rating: 3
You forgot exploding batteries. ;)

RE: Interesting
By James Holden on 2/25/2007 6:15:55 PM , Rating: 3
I've seen a few big things, the most exciting being laser backlight (demo'ed behind closed doors at CES) and OLED 17" displays, also at CES.

Sony is a huge company, they'll recover from 2006.

RE: Interesting
By deeznuts on 2/25/2007 7:42:37 PM , Rating: 2
they'll recover from 2006

They actually didn't do too bad in 2006. As you say, they are a huge company, and their stock price has recovered.

RE: Interesting
By Scabies on 2/26/2007 9:22:06 AM , Rating: 2
They actually didn't do too bad in 2006.

Yeah, wasn't this their best year yet in TV (HDTV) sales? They got $2,500 off of me. $500 for my 120gb (formerly 20) PS3.

RE: Interesting
By kmmatney on 2/26/2007 9:12:10 PM , Rating: 2
I'm pretty happy with my SONY LCD projection TV.

RE: Interesting
By vortmax on 2/28/2007 12:22:24 PM , Rating: 2
They do make nice TVs...can't argue that...

RE: Interesting
By BladeVenom on 2/25/2007 7:00:20 PM , Rating: 2
There have been a few stories about how well the PS2 is still selling.

RE: Interesting
By xphile on 2/26/2007 5:54:55 AM , Rating: 2
With regard to you saying you suppose next week etc - it's most certainly on the cards. The following linked article is pretty interesting - interesting to me because the author couldnt in my opinion be more wrong, but that aside it does contain a reference to "A report in Ultra One Monthly, a Japanese technology magazine in June of last year stated that the firm would be removing the PS2 chipset from future revisions of the PS3 hardware once it completed development of a software-based emulator." If that is true then there is little hope for any PS3 market moving forward in relation to retaining the emulation hardware and that makes sense given Sony's utter determination to make every single entry in the "World's Top Ten Worst Techology Decisions Of All Time" list within a 2 year period. Guinness Records are calling you Sony.

Many people outside North America know they will pay through the nose for a PS3. They know the reviews arent all hot, they know the game releases arent great. But Sony supporters are loyal people. The one huge factor in Sony's favour when all was said and done )and this was quoted to me almost word for word by two or three separate people who dont even know each other was "Well they will surely have some great games sooner or later, and until they come along at least they have true hardware support for PS2 games, not like the 360 that has had so much trouble supporting original X-Box games coz its software only support"

Oh dear Sony - didnt you hear that? That was the sound of your loyalist supporters tramping out of the building. Many others have packed up and left now too, because they plonked down deposits (and even trade in PS2's) on a system you said would do A,B and C, and they find that all it is going to do is A - play Bluray movies. No B because just where ARE all the killer PS3 games you promised, and now no C either because you just removed the PS1/2 support you promised.

But yeah you will support hundreds of PS2 games in software yeah? Or most right? Ok how many then? You will give us a list? Ok where is it? Oh ok we can have it AFTER we buy the system and you have taken our cash off us!

Um Sony, heads up...

Patience over, Bullshit session over, GAME OVER - YOU LOSE!

RE: Interesting
By peternelson on 2/26/2007 8:04:41 PM , Rating: 2
I agree completely with you on the complaint that the website with list of titles and compatible / partial / not for each will not be available until launch day.

Unfortunately most Europeans have to PRE-ORDER ie make a purchase decision BEFORE launch day in order to ensure getting one.

Given the few PS3 titles so far, the PS2 library is a big benefit. But Sony expect me to make a purchase decision on the console ie to pre-order it BEFORE they tell me if it can run my games.

Sony wake up! You must test and post this list ASAP not on launch day.

RE: Interesting
By AGAC on 3/2/2007 6:12:52 PM , Rating: 2
Yo´re skipping those 10 mil or so exploding laptop/cellphone batteries.

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins

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