Goodbye, oh ye of little chrome
R.I.P. 20GB PlayStation 3, November 2006 - April 2007

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 extinction.

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 consumer demand.”

“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 Source, Circuit City, Radio Shack, FRYS, Costco, Target and Wal-Mart, 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.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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