When Sony announced the initial release
details for the PlayStation 3, it did so revealing that there would be two
different version of its new console. Like Microsoft’s strategy of offering
consumers choice, Sony did so as well with a top-tier, full-featured 60GB model
and a lesser, but still capable 20GB model.
The 20GB PlayStation 3 was revealed to lack notable features
such as Wi-Fi and a memory card reader. HDMI also wasn’t part of the
original 20GB spec, but the digital interface was later added in
just months before launch.
Sony was always proud of both variants of its latest
console, saying that both include hard disk drives—something that Microsoft
could not claim. But now, it appears as though Sony is taking the choice of
which console to buy away from the consumer.
Consumers have noticed that, while PlayStation 3 consoles
are no longer hard to find, the 20GB version is puzzlingly rare, perhaps even on the brink of
It’s not a case of demand that’s suddenly making store
shelves barren of the less expensive PS3. Internal documents from Best Buy
revealed last month that the big box electronics retailer is now classifying the 20GB
PS3 as discontinued. The memo is also reflected on the company’s online
store, showing that only
60GB machines are available.
Is Sony quietly phasing out the 20GB model? Sony says no,
saying that retailers simply aren’t ordering them. Sony Computer Entertainment
America PR head David Karraker commented on the topic in late February, saying,
“The type of model found in stores is completely up to what the retailer
orders, so if they don't see a big demand for a particular SKU, they simply
don't order it from us. We continue to manufacture both.”
Karraker gave a similar response when cornered with the
topic in March, saying, “The 20GB model of PS3 is available in North America,
along with the 60GB model. While we make it available to retailers, they are
the ones who ultimately place the order for what they want to sell, based on
“Overwhelmingly, retailers have been requesting the 60GB
model, the mix has been about 80 percent 60GB, 20 percent 20GB retailer orders.
So, the reason you might not be seeing the 20 GB is simply that retailers have
been ordering more of the 60 GB unit,” Karraker added.
Representatives for Sony Computer Entertainment of America
did not provide an updated comment on the recent retailer claims, though
Satoshi Fukuoka, a spokesperson for SCEI in Tokyo did offer to IDG, “The
line-up [at SonyStyle] is decided based on market demand and so it's not
surprising that they are not selling it on their Web site but if you go to a
retailer you can find it.”
Retailers speaking with DailyTech
are saying otherwise, however, showing that the 20GB PlayStation 3 hasn’t been
on the order sheets for months now. “The word I get from head office is that
the 20GB has been discontinued across the country,” said Chris P., manager of
an EB Games store. “I’d like to have at least a couple 20GB [consoles] on hand
to offer customers who get sticker shock [from the price of the 60GB model],
but I haven’t seen any on order for months.”
The situation is no different north of the border, as Future
Shop in Canada lists only
the 60GB model in its PlayStation 3 console section. A Future Shop employee
confirmed, “I haven’t seen any of the 20GB [consoles] since the new year. We
had quite a few up until Christmas, but not many since then – probably none since the price went
up. We get shipments of 60GB [consoles] all the time, though.”
Perhaps most telling of all is the absence of the 20GB
PlayStation 3 from Sony’s own online store, SonyStyle. Both consoles were once
listed under the
PlayStation 3 section, but now only the 60GB model exists. The 20GB
console is also no longer listed on GameStop, EB Games, The
to name a few.
The 20GB console served the purpose of bringing fully-functional
and viable PS3 gaming to those either on a budget or without need for the extra
features. For home theater enthusiasts, the 20GB PlayStation 3 was one of the
best and least expensive Blu-ray players on the market. But the writing may have
been on the wall for quite some time now. It was revealed back in November that
Sony is losing roughly
$307 USD for every 20GB PS3 that it sells versus a smaller $241 USD hit for
the more expensive 60GB version.
Despite what the official line is from Sony, market surveys
confirm that the 20GB PlayStation 3 is dead – may it rest in peace.