Friday, October 5, 2007

40 gig Euro PS3 released without PS2 compatibility - entire world says "Wha?"

(from the Wha? Guh! department)

Hi everyone,

Well - Sony continues to send a very mixed message with their marketing strategy for the PS3.

First of all - they added rumble to the SIXAXIS controller after they said that it was "last generation" technology. All well and good - but although the controller comes out next month in Japan, customers in North America and Europe have to wait until "Spring 2008".


Well... okay... it seems stupid to miss the Holiday season window in NA & Europe, but... okay...

But wait - that's not all. Today Sony announced a new, low-cost PS3 model in Europe. As predicted by various news sources, this model lowers the HDD size to 40 gig, reduces the number of USB ports from 4 to 2, and removes the multi-function memory card slots. All well and good - it's a lower cost machine - but here's the strange part.

They also removed PS2 backwards compatibility.

Wuh? Wuh? Wuh...WHA?

Didn't Ken Kutaragi himself once say, "the PS3 will feature backwards compatibility with PS and PS2 games from day one. I'm emphasizing this because, from what I hear, there are some platforms that haven't been able to completely do this. It's costly in terms of hardware, but we'd rather [invest] firmly on compatibility from the beginning, rather than to have issues later on."

Oh yeah - that's right - he's not there anymore.

Some of you might be wondering how this is possible, given what I said earlier about backwards compatibility in my blog.

Well - the answer is simple. The heart of the PlayStation 2 is two chips - the Emotion Engine (EE) and the Graphics Synthesizer (GS). The earliest PS3s had the EE + GS in silicon - thus hardware PS2 compatibility. The next revision (Europe, Korean, 80 gig US) of the motherboard removed the EE in favor of software emulation by the Cell BE processor of the PS3, but left the GS in place. Apparently, this new 40 gig model removes the GS entirely, breaking backwards compatibility. Someday, if they were so inclined, they might be able to get the PS3's nVidia RSX GPU to emulate the GS, but that would be quite the undertaking, since they are fundamentally different beasts.


If PS2 compatibility means anything to you, buy that 60 gig model now - before it's too late!


P.S. The other thing about Sony that's annoying me right now? They're not releasing the S-Video cable for the new PSP in America. Grrrrrrr....

UPDATE: Some of the European blogs have reported that the 40 gig model has lost SACD playback capabilities as well. I did confirm that on Sony's Australian PlayStation site. The blogs theorize that the SACD playback was discontinued due to either a licensing issue with the SACD division of Sony or due to the increased costs of incorporating Pit Stream Protection in the BluRay Drive. This latter reason seems most plausible to me. By removing Pit Stream Protection, you can use a "standard" BluRay drive, and could shave a little bit more from the cost of manufacturing.

UPDATE 2: I had mentioned that the 40 gig PS3 had dropped PS1 backwards compatibility. This is not true - the 40 gig PS3 will still play PS1 games. As it turns out, PS1 compatibility had been achived entirely through software emulation since the launch of the PS3. The PSP also uses a full software emulator for PS1 games; that is why you can share them between your PSP and your PS3. That is also why the PS3 dramatically improves the graphics quality of PS1 games; it isn't constrained by the original PS1 hardware. Mea culpa.

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