Sony announces the 40GB PS3 and everyone starts complaining.

Sony just can’t seem to make people happy with the PS3. They formally announced the much-rumored 40GB version of the PS3 — currently available only in Europe though it’ll probably hit the states before too long — that’ll be the cheapest model yet and every gaming site I’ve read is calling it the worst version of the PS3 so far. So what has them all up in arms? This version has done away with PS2 backwards compatibility.

This prompted the folks at Joystiq to give it their first ever W.T.F. award saying:

We are presenting the first-ever Joystiq W.T.F. award for Sony, who managed to single-handedly outshine the Microsoft / Bungie schism by deciding not to make the newest PlayStation 3 model backwards compatible … at all.

Even though it cost them practically nothing to upload written software that lets it work, Sony in its Great Benevolence decided to screw customers but tell them that it’s for their own good. doth quote the Penny Arcade, “we need you to believe another new lie.” Congratulations on the dubious award…

Then the guys over at Aeropause put it this way:

So why is this the worst idea to ever come from Sony? Because it basically brings the PlayStation 3 back to its absolute zero starting point with its biggest unserved fan base—the PS2 owners who have held out because of price. By turning the PS3 into a PS3-only gaming machine, they have re-launched the PS3 with almost no draw for those people. It’s no longer an “upgrade” or a “replacement” for the PS2, giving them pride in their brand loyalty, it’s a brand new machine that stands alone and doesn’t replace anything at all. Heck, it probably won’t even replace their DVD player. It might as well have ATARI written on it instead of Sony PlayStation. Maybe we can call it the 40GB ZetaSystem?

That bears restating, so here goes: It makes the PS3 into just a separate, incompatible console in the eyes of their fan base who has held out to see the price fall. Just like the Xbox 360 and just like the Wii for PS2 owners, the PS3 is a new box that will sit next to their existing box. The Wii replaces the GameCube with full backwards compatibility. The 360 replaces the Xbox with a wide variety of popular titles backwards compatible. With relatively few exclusives and a weaker online service, the PS3 may not exactly jump off the shelves at the same price as the already-launched 360.

The way some of these sites are reacting you’d think Sony had committed a cardinal sin. Don’t get me wrong, I think having backwards compatibility is a good selling point, but it’s hardly a necessary feature that should be a deal breaker for anyone. Let’s be honest, how many of you PS2 owners still play any PS1 games on your PS2 these days? If you’re anything like me then chances are you’ve not booted up a PS1 game since you picked up your fourth or fifth PS2 game. It’s a great feature to have for the first few months after launch when there’s not a lot of new games for the new system yet, but it doesn’t take long before you’re not bothering with booting up the old games any longer. At that point what difference does it make?

Personally I’d be more than willing to toss aside backwards compatibility for a cheaper PS3. It’s not like my PS2 suddenly becomes inoperable once I hook up that PS3 though I suspect history may repeat itself and it’ll get a lot less use.  I’m actually a lot more concerned with the fact that the new model drops two of the four USB ports and the multi memory card port though, again, these are nice things to have but not deal breakers. I’ve never used the USB ports on my PS2 and while I’d like to think I’d make use of the multi memory card port the truth is I probably wouldn’t. Lastly if you just have to have these things they’re still selling the 80GB model which includes them all. 

So, really, what’s the problem? Everyone, including myself, has been bitching about wanting a cheaper PS3 for ages and now that Sony has obliged it seems everyone’s bitching that it’s not exactly the same as the more expensive model. Seriously, did you people expect that just dropping the HD by 40GBs was going to allow for a $100 price drop? The argument seems to be that with the backwards compatibility being done in software on the 80GB model there’s no real reason it shouldn’t be on the 40GB model. It’s entirely possibly the only reason it’s not on the 40GB model is because Sony’s keeping that feature for the 80GB version as a selling point and that’s not unreasonable at all. It seems to me the folks who’d be most concerned with it would want the 80GB version anyway.

But that’s just my take on it. All the noise and fury over this new version of the PS3 seems like a whole lotta fuss over something that’ll probably be a moot point in the near term anyway.

25 thoughts on “Sony announces the 40GB PS3 and everyone starts complaining.

  1. But if backward compatability costs nothing why not add on as a selling point?  My sons currently share a bed room, but if they get seperate rooms (which they might in the next 12 months or so) the oldest will want a gaming machine.  If he’s going to have to buy a load new games might as well get a cheaper console. PS3 games are £10 or more more than PS 2, and now PS2 games are bargain bucket, they are twice or more as expensive. This is why I rarely buy new consoles, the thought of junking ££££ of games.

  2. So, really, what’s the problem?

    From what I can gather from the quoted articles, the PS/3 is priced out of range for some people who’d like one and a proportion of this group was waiting for a less expensive model to replace a PS/2 or in any case let them play all those PS/2 games, too.

  3. I’m really looking forward to this. I’m with you, this is something I want.

    My PS2 remains hooked up, and I get to play Resistance at the same time.

  4. LH, we don’t know for certain that adding backwards compatibility costs nothing, but even if it doesn’t withholding it is still a valid way of adding value to the more expensive version of the PS3. It’s quite common in other electronics.

    Don’t know how things work in Europe, but here in the States there’s a number of stores that will buy your older titles for store credit towards new ones. A lot of stores make most of their money on selling previously used games.

  5. But if backward compatability costs nothing why not add on as a selling point?

    It may or may not require some engineering effort to fit it to the lower-end models. I will have to be supported at a cost.

    These costs may be significant or negligible, but more likely they’re a way to herd at least some of the more frugal customers to spring for an upscale model after all.

    PS3 games are £10 or more more than PS 2, and now PS2 games are bargain bucket, they are twice or more as expensive. This is why I rarely buy new consoles, the thought of junking ££££ of games.

    My personal opinion is that games trend towards adding more eye candy, but if you’ve played a handful of representative games, you’ve played them all. I’ve never even considered picking up a console because the games I see on consoles leave me cold, but if I were in the market for a console, I’d want a model that plays old and new games alike to compensate for the single-purpose character of consoles (yeah, okay, so you can play DVDs, too).

  6. It doesn’t matter if it costs something though: the PS3 is dead in the water right now, and if they’re ever going to have the console take flight they need to suck up to customers in whatever way they possibly can. Otherwise they’re just generating negative press.

    If I were Sony I’d get off my behind really quick and amend this issue with a press release of “as soon as we’re able to, you can download a backward compatibility patch from Sony – because we love you guys.”

  7. I don’t know that I’d say that it’s “dead in the water.” As of June 30, 2007 they’ve sold 4.28 million units worldwide and Sony is confident they’ll reach their goal of 11 million unites by the end of March 2008. That doesn’t sound like dead in the water to me.

  8. They need some kind of unique selling point (multiplayer seems to be the USP of xbox 360), perhaps exclusive rights to a the first game of a new or semi-new genre (with a novel spin like Black+white). I agree with elwed that the old genres are pretty much exhausted, the golden time of new concepts like GTA, The sims, Simcity, doom, etc has gone. Even childrens games have less novelty because many of them are old, over-recycled concpets.

    HD has bought sony some time with more potential eye-candy (and helped drive the tv market), but there’s only so far this’ll go, and unless the PS3 takes on more titles it’ll end up like the Sega Saturn.

  9. Yes, actually. It turned out that cleaning the lens and taking an eraser to the little plastic doohickey that holds the CD down was all I needed to do. I think it was more to do with the doohickey being dirty than anything.

    That’s a technical term, doohickey.

  10. “Backwards compatibility, as you know from PlayStation One and PlayStation 2, is a core value of what we believe we should offer. And access to the library of content people have created, bought for themselves, and accumulated over the years is necessary to create a format. PlayStation is a format meaning that it transcends many devices—PSOne, PS2, and now PS3.” – Phil Harrison, President SCEE

    As someone who’s experienced what each of the consoles have to offer, the PS3 does not have much extra to offer for too much more money. The Xbox provides better online functionality and the Wii has much better motion controls. The PS3’s graphics, thus far, have not exceeded what the 360 is capable of. I honestly spend most of my time on my PS3 watching HD trailers downloaded (slowly) off the Playstation Store, watching Blu-ray DVDs and upscaled DVDs – meh. I spend the rest of my time on it playing my PS2 and PSX games. Most games for the PS3 are either also available on the 360 where they typically run better and offer better online functionality, or they just don’t justify spending so much money on them (Heavenly Sword and Lair jump directly to mind – both disappointments review-wise). The first PS3 game I’m actually excited about buying is the new Ratchet and Clank game.

    The issue of backwards compatibility on the PS3 is much more contentious an issue for Sony than say Microsoft’s middling software emulation effort because games on the predecessor consoles are modern classics that many people still play. Also – Sony would have the only home console not boasting backwards compatibility of any kind. For multiple-console consumers the 80GB machine may cost too much, but the 40GB machine doesn’t offer much that justifies having it sit next to a PS2. Not to mention, Backwards Compatibility isn’t a feature you can just add-on later. The Xbox tiers, aside from a few cosmetic differences, don’t have much difference between them. All of the consoles now have HDMI and the hard-drives, the only real difference between each console, is upgradeable.

    I seriously question Sony’s business sense when they’re cutting the price and removing features where Microsoft is cutting prices, maybe only half as much as Sony, but also adding new features (HDMI, Falcon chipset).

    The real reason Sony is removing backwards compatibility from the 40GB versions? Because anyone savvy enough can upgrade that hard-drive and save themselves a bundle.

  11. I don’t know that I’d say that it’s “dead in the water.” As of June 30, 2007 they’ve sold 4.28 million units worldwide and Sony is confident they’ll reach their goal of 11 million unites by the end of March 2008. That doesn’t sound like dead in the water to me.

    Yes, but here’s the thing – from January through the end of February 2007 Microsoft’s Xbox360 sold somewhere around 260,000 units…. the Sony PS3 sold about 210,000 units. In the same time period, the Nintendo Wii sold 1.5 million units – more than triple it’s combined competitiors.

    In the year and a half the PS3 has been out, they’ve sold 4.28 million units worldwide, from what you’re telling me.

    In the period from April 1to September 23rd, Wii sales in Japan were nearly 4 to 1 over the PS3.1 In North America, there are around 6 million Xbox360s to 3.7 million Wiis to 1.5 million PS3s. 2 Relatively speaking, the PS3 is getting destroyed, and sales in North America struggle to sustain growth – and worse, that they need to more than double their rate of growth for the coming 6 months to meet that projection of 11 million PS3s.

    Yes, it’s possible that the PS3 isn’t dead. However, Sony has a habit of confidently making absurd claims.

    edit: Oh, and with regards to backwards compatibility: having it in my PS3 means I can sell my PS2. The money I’d save getting their new PS3 would go to waste. I still play my PS2 games (Resident Evil 4 is my current target – need to glomp Shadow of the Colossus and finish Okami first).

  12. Zach, Sony and Microsoft have both made a lot of promises over the years that they didn’t end up keeping so quoting marketing material doesn’t really mean much. Remember the PS2 hard drive? There was only one title that ever took advantage of it in spite of all the marketing hype it had prior to its release.

    I still don’t agree that backwards compatibility is a make or break issue for most consumers out there. The price on the 80GB model will come down in time so if folks just have to have backwards compatibility, but don’t want to spend the extra money, they can always just hold out until the price does come down.

    Patness, I’m not sure what your point is. No one’s claiming that the PS3 is outselling the Wii or the Xbox 360 at this point. That doesn’t equate to the console being dead in the water, though. It’s entirely possible Sony won’t be the market leader in this generation and, honestly, I don’t see that as a bad thing. In the past Nintendo and Sega traded spots as the number one console maker a couple of times until Sony came along and stomped all over them.

    Considering that Sony was the last out of the gate with their new machine this time and it’s priced considerably higher than the Wii and the Xbox 360 it shouldn’t be a big revelation that it’s not sold as many units. For all the sales of the Wii it’s still little more than a Gamecube with a gimmicky control scheme tacked onto it. It’s biggest advantage is that it’s cheap.

  13. I totally play PS1 games on my PS2! Final Fantasy IX (the best fucking FF game ever!) was actually the last game I was playing on my PS2 system before lending it to my father.

    Really, If a PS3 can’t play PS1 or PS2 games… it’s just as good as a paperweight to me. I’ll just stick with my backwards compatible PS2, thanks… not that many interesting PS3 games coming out yet for me anyways.

  14. Patness, I’m not sure what your point is. No one’s claiming that the PS3 is outselling the Wii or the Xbox 360 at this point. That doesn’t equate to the console being dead in the water, though. It’s entirely possible Sony won’t be the market leader in this generation and, honestly, I don’t see that as a bad thing. In the past Nintendo and Sega traded spots as the number one console maker a couple of times until Sony came along and stomped all over them.

    You might not see it as a bad thing, but you’re not all over Sony’s bottom line like a shareholder either. The Wii is winning the console wars right now because it’s got games, and it’s knocking them out fast enough and with enough hype that it sticks in people’s minds. The 360 has games too, and that’s probably making up the difference in sales when compared to Sony. The PS3 has this vast catalog of some of the best games of all times that it could be tapping into though, and suddenly they’re kicking that subtle edge when they might otherwise hit a price/sale tipping point?

    Sony’s not going to fail if they do this, it’s just questionable from the standpoint of “how much could it possibly cost compared to the possible benefits of suddenly grabbing some large percentage of those PS2 owners this Xmas?” It’s a big deal because it might be the difference between someone price comparing with the 360 and it being a “must have” console for this holiday season. I don’t know – is there some hot PS3 game that’s going to hit the stores and make potential PS3 owners weep for not having it by November?

    You’d think that the PS3 was priced at a level that Sony will make money no matter what, but if consumer confidence isn’t high in the related products or if the related products producers aren’t confident in the ability of the console to move their products? You have to wonder exactly what the plan for making the console “hot” is, because that’s really where any marketing should be heading in media & entertainment. Being third in sales is fine when you’re talking toasters, but for shareholders watching total market dominance get shuffled into a “wtf are the doing” 3rd place strategy?

    Meh. I’ll stick with PCs. They’re turning out to be some of the cheapest consoles around this year, and they’re still fairly backwards compatible (as long as you install XP I guess).

  15. Another big set of factors in me saying “meh” to PS3 is that… Silent Hill 5 is being produced by fucking Americans… Final Fantasy XIII is continuing in the vomit inducing realistic style of the past horrible horrible horrible FF games of X, XI, and XII (like I said… IX was my favorite, everything after is crap)… and my favorite role playing series of all times Dragon Quest is moving it’s official 9th installment to the DS (which I now happily own)… Phantom Hourglass itself looks more exciting than anything I’ve seen for PS3… and I can’t wait for the FF IV remake.

  16. Patness, I’m not sure what your point is.

    My bad: the point I meant to make in my overtired stupor is this.

    Even if it isn’t dead in the water, it’s headed that way. The PS3 sales have been in somewhat of a downtrend recently, whereas sales of other consoles are growing; they’re getting their asses kicked all over the market, and their window of opportunity to recover is quickly leaving them. I stand by the idea that Sony is talking out their ass when they talk about selling 7 million PS3s in the timeframe they would usually sell 1.4.

    As MM points out, this is a particularly bad time for Sony to be alienating any group of customers; if this is their preparation for the holidays, even they’re getting desperate, but you’re right about one thing – the guys holding onto their PS2 collection are somewhat of a minority group. At least they’re cutting off the right appendage.

  17. Duckhanger – out of curiousity, what was it you preferred about ix? Seemed alright to me + I felt for vivi, but didn’t (yet-on disc 2) engage me and didn’t create the gripping feeling of confusion that vii and (early) x had.

    garnet = yuna
    steiner = auron
    freya = kimahri
    vivi = lulu
    zidane = rikku
    can’t remember the others

  18. I can personally say that, because I still haven’t fixed my ps2, I currently have both a PS and a PS2 hooked up (I’m switching between Legend of Dragoon and Chrono Cross on the PS, and Disgaea 2 on the PS2). Backwards compatibility is a huge selling point for these systems with me. I was waiting for the price to come out because there are really no games currently available for the PS3 that I want. But I would be willing to get one for the Blu-Ray capability, to play my older games on, and just in case there was something I wanted coming out. If they ditch the backwards compatibility I know that myself, and a large number of my friends, won’t be getting one.

    There are a lot of people who feel that way and I don’t see why Sony is doing this. I’m not going to say that it is “Next to Nothing” for the backwards compatibility but I don’t see how it could make that much of a difference in price because they have already done the expensive part, written the code for it. Everything after that is embedded hardware and subject to its costs. Arguably, by putting the code to work in the new PS3 you are reducing the costs of production of all of the PS3 models because you are dividing the cost of code production into multiple sources (Stupid Software Development Class), though admittedly not a lot.

    Oh well, thats my two cents,


  19. Bahamat, it’s the cuteness factor of it… all the characters have a lovable quality to them that wasn’t off putting and sterile like all those “realistic” looking models in so many of the other 3-D games had. The game also wasn’t too serious for it’s own good… sure there were serious aspects to the story but for the most part it felt more whimsical which is something I like about games.

    To give you a hint about my game preferences, I personally think that Wind Waker was the greatest Zelda game of all time… I’m really looking forward to Phantom Hourglass (one I have enough money saved aside to buy the damn thing).

    Those comparisons you make between characters of FF IX with X seem mostly based on what kind of class those characters are. Personality wise the FF X crew did far less to endear me to them. Auron was much too serious and “bad-ass” for me to like… I like the dopey and bumbling nature of Steiner much more. Also, I just in general couldn’t stand the angst that most of those FF X characters oozed out… like the main hero Tidus with all his “I hate my dad” rantings. FF X also has no character like Queen Brahne, who I thought was an awesome villian… someone you could love and hate at the same time… and someone who looks somewhat like a blue meanie from the yellow submarine! Heh heh.

  20. Ah yes, I noticed a kind of fairytale feel to ix (reinforced by the music), which I can see can draw an attatchment to the characters. For some reason I am a fairly serious person (I even laugh on the outside to achieve serious motives), and I need a real feel to grasp the gravity of the situation, and for it to feel more like I was there (I have poor imagination).

    I like twists, and when the protagonist has to struggle to deal with a mind-bending idea (for cloud and, less so, tidus) – it feels kind of like new philosophical teritory to explore. I also like it when it’s not clear whether the antagonist really is bad or not (and perhaps the protagonist is in the wrong), as with seymour and venat – for the thought it inspires. You were correct that I only linked by character class, I kinda noticed there were some loose parelels between structure there

    XII was a glamourous re-hash of IX in some ways, you had 2 major powers in a struggle, contacts on both sides, and the main character is a thief in both – but in XII I had no clue as to what the hell was going on half the time, mainly because I couldn’t keep track of all the NPC’s named in passing.

    I didn’t like the setting of VIII, seemed a bit too off and unbelievable – a mercenary college that, as an exam, sent 17 y/o students into real battle and expected commando-like results from them. I didn’t like having to constantly work maintain your level of income either, and the mercenary nature makes it unengaging -for profit only. Not tried anything before vii, or xi (can’t see how multiplayer could have a storyline)

    But yeah, my favourite so far is beatrix for some reason (I’d have to think on that)

  21. Backwards compatibility is a big selling point to me. There are alot of very good PS2-only games that I never got to play since I had an xBox.

    The PS3 still has a tiny library of 65 mostly-craptastic games and the much-hyped MGS4 is still vaporware.

    I’ve been waiting to get a reasonably priced PS3 but at this point I’m honestly leaning towards an xBox360.

  22. Hehe – When I bought my new console I had the cash to buy one or the other so that was no worry – What made my mind up for me in the end was the size of the box .. I had to carry it home 5 kms due to no transport wink
      – oh and Halo 3 too.

  23. Looks like Joystiq heard back from Sony about the bru ha ha over dropping PS2 backwards compatibility on the latest PS3. As it turns out the speculation that there is a reduction in hardware behind the decision is correct. Here’s the relevant passages:

    Regarding PSOne emulation

    “The PS3 has never been equipped with either the CPU or GPU that were used in the original PlayStation, and the backwards compatibility for PS one titles has therefore been made available through software emulation from the beginning. Therefore backwards compatibility for PS1 titles remains the same no matter how many times the model is changed.”

    Regarding PS2 emulation

    “On the other hand, backwards compatibility for PS2 titles is largely made possible through the use of actual semiconductors, supported by the PS3 system software. The 20GB and 60GB PS3 models launched in Japan and the USA were equipped with both the PS2 Emotion Engine and Graphics Synthesiser chips and we could therefore guarantee over 90% backwards compatibility for PS2 titles.

    “The 60GB model launched in Europe was a new model (shared with the 80GB model launched subsequently in USA) which contains only a modified version of the Graphics Synthesiser chip from the PS2 and not the Emotion Engine chip. The European launch model therefore used a combination of software and the modified version of the PS2 Graphics Synthesiser chip to deliver backwards compatibility for PS2 titles. As a result the percentage of backwards compatible PS2 titles was slightly reduced.

    “The 40GB model, to be launched in Europe on 10th October, is a new model and is not equipped with any of the semi conductors from the PS2, and backwards compatibility would therefore have to be achieved by software emulation alone. The sheer numbers of PS2 titles available, together with the increased complexity of using a software only solution for each and every title means that to ensure accurate software emulation for the majority would be technically challenging, time consuming and costly. As we have mentioned on several occasions, our engineering resources are now focused on developing new and innovative features and services for the PS3 and, as a result the 40GB model does not have backwards compatibility with PS2 titles.

    “The current PS3 system software and future updates will continue to support backwards compatibility for the current 60GB and 80GB models.

    So if being able to play your PS2 games on your PS3 is important to you then you’ll want to either snag one of the remaining 60GB models still out there or save up the extra pennies to buy an 80GB model. Sony hasn’t announced any plans to stop producing the 80GB model so it remains a viable option for those who want it.

  24. I commend Sony for reacting quickly, but I think that they’d be well off in sticking the hardware back in, slapping a “it’s a feature!” sticker on it, keeping a reduced price, and making a commercial about it:

    “It’s got everything you love about your PS2, and all this other stuff that makes your kids shut up for a little sweetness time with your lady.”

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