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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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RE: PS3 coffin is comprised completely of nails
By Visual on 2/26/2007 5:41:31 AM , Rating: 2
unfortunately, they aren't at all as clueless as you might think. fact is, the ps3 is gonna sell even the way it is - double price and half functionality, half an year later... but it's gonna sell.

not sell as good as wii or maybe even xbox, definitely not sell as good as it could if it had proper price and wasn't cut down - but you know, the higher price makes up the lower sale numbers. if it sells just good enough to match their production rates, they'd be happy. they won't like it selling too fast, as that'd mean they need to produce more and sell more at a loss. they have all the numbers planned out, and have calculated that they will actually be able to milk europe this way.

sure as hell, if i ever met the powers that be in sony, i'd stab them in the eyes over and over...and over. but i wouldn't call them clueless.

By mircea on 2/27/2007 7:32:09 AM , Rating: 2
The thing is that real money on consoles come from games per console sold, and those games come from developers which also want money. To make money they need to sell as many copies as possible, so that means they need to have as many console units in customers homes as possible. If PS3 won't be in those homes, then developers won't be sticking with developing the game just for it, considering that it's so hard to develop now. So they will go multiplatform. And if any game you can have on PS3 can be found on Xbox360 or Wii, the why buy a PS3 at all. Get a Xbox360 for high definition if that's what you want or a Wii if the same game would prove to be more fun with it's controle scheme.

Even more, Sony had planed to increase the life cycle of game consoles, so they better know they have the market dominated so other companies won't force them earlier in a new generation, considering they already came in late.

So Sony is milking itself of future profits if you think that they are slowing production to increase demand and sell at little or no loss. Believe me Sony is making the maximum number of PS3 it can. I think that this move is in that direction as well. Removing the EE not only reduces on some costs, but free's up factories to build other components of PS3.

Also people keep saying that Sony looses $$$ on each console sold, but the truth is that it lost that money and more the moment it made each unit of PS3. Selling it at any cost means recovering some lost. Not selling it at all means a complete loss, since they cannot undo the PS3 and put the money back in the bank. And even stopping production of PS3 means a loss considering the R&D that went on it.

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