Sony to Chop PlayStation 3 Price in Japan

Sony Computer Entertainment (SCEI) kicked off the Tokyo Game Show with a surprise for Japanese consumers: a price cut for the yet-to-be-launched PlayStation 3 console.

The cheapest of two versions of the console will cost 49,980 yen (US$427) in Japan, said Ken Kutaragi, president of SCEI in a speech at the show on Friday morning. That’s a more than 10,000 yen drop from the previous announced price of 62,790 yen.

"In Japan there is a perception that one yen is the same as one dollar and one euro, so Japanese people feel it’s a little expensive," said Nanako Kato, a spokeswoman for SCEI in Tokyo. The U.S. launch price is US$499 and the cut would bring the Japanese price in line with that of the U.S. in the minds of consumers, she said.

Sony Headquarters
Sony Headquarters

The price cut will only apply in Japan.

Asked whether there was now a risk that consumers in the U.S. and Europe would perceive the PlayStation 3 to be overpriced in their markets, she said: "I guess we’ll find that out from now."

Sony also said it would fit a high-definition HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) on both versions of the PlayStation 3. The company had previously said it would only be available on the higher-end model.

The PlayStation 3, Sony’s first new games console in more than five years, is scheduled to launch in Japan on Nov. 11 and in the U.S. on Nov. 17. It was supposed to be available in Europe at the same time as the U.S. launch but problems obtaining sufficient supply of blue laser diodes for the console’s optical disc drive pushed Sony to delay the European launch until 2007.

Kutaragi’s announcement came at the end of an otherwise uninspiring keynote address which barely touched upon the PlayStation 3. Despite the company being on the verge of its biggest product launch for years, he spent his hour-long speech talking about the future of gaming and the possibilities that new technology could bring 10 years down the road.

Centered around the benefits that could come from silos of data stored on network-accessible servers, Kutaragi said one day it might be possible for players of games like Ridge Racer to race cars along real streets using data downloaded from public mapping databases.

"Today producers have to [produce the game landscape] by foot with digital cameras if they want to use a real world setting. With these databases available you can incorporate data into the game," he said. Doing so would cut the lengthy development process and save game makers money, he said.

He also suggested that users could contribute their own data, supplementing publicly available sources with more detailed information on locations. What Kutaragi was suggesting has similarities with the way Google benefits from its users adding metadata to images or marking up maps with labels.

"If you have the database, you don’t have to put it all in from scratch," he said.

-Martyn Williams, IDG News Service (Tokyo Bureau)

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