I’ll start with a disclaimer. I’m not a fanboy of any console/manufacturer/brand. I’m just a gamer. I currently own an XBox 360, PS2 and a Nintendo DS and have owned an XBox, Gamecube and another PS2 from the last generation of consoles. I’m not considering buying a PS3, but there is a possibility one may fall into my lap, as it were. I do fancy a Wii right now, fnar fnar.
I’ve been following the run up to the European launch of the PS3 with a little interest. Not in terms of the technology, the games or indeed with a view to buying one, but simply to try and ascertain whether or not Sony have really lost their marbles. Amongst the hardcore console gaming community Sony have really been on a downward track in Europe ever since the huge delay in getting the PSP to these shores. Pricing policy has been a sticking point with Euro and Sterling prices not in parity with those in the US and Japan. What’s more Sony’s stance of grey imports has been authoritarian to say the least, and their behaviour over the whole Lik-Sang affair was diabolical.
So the run up to the European launch of the PS3 on 23rd March has been interesting to watch. We’ve had discontent over the fact that despite the initial fanfare of a worldwide launch, we were later told that Europe would get it months later than the US and Japan. Then there has been the pricing issue. In Japan the 60GB version of the console is openly priced, allowing retailers to set their own price. In the US it retails for $599 (£305 with the currently generous fx rate) whilst those in the UK will have to pay £425. This is even slightly more than the rest of Europe (unless you happen to live in Greece in which case you will get royally done over)
However, today news comes about the fact that the hardware Europe will get is actually different to the rest of the world. One of the things Sony have always played up is that their consoles will play games from the previous ones. The PS2 played PSOne games, and the PS3 plays PS2 and PSOne games. They’ve always gone down the hardware route of backwards compatibility. That is, they include the old CPU in the new console. As such, the PS3 contains the emotion engine from the PS2. Except in Europe it won’t.
It appears that Sony have redesigned the chassis of the PS3 to remove the older PS2 hardware to reduce costs and allow them to introduce pricing discounts earlier in the product’s lifetime. They will now take an emulation based approach to backwards compatibility as Microsoft did with the XBox 360. As such, the number of PS2 games which will work on the PS3 is quoted by GamesIndustry.biz as being “a limited range”. Now that doesn’t sound like it is going to be too many to me 😉
Now I don’t happen to think that back-compat is a terribly important aspect of a console. If I had PS2 games I still wanted to play I’d keep a PS2 to play them on. I do also think that it makes sense to do it via emulation and that MS have done a pretty good job of it with the 360. Certainly they took a lot of abuse from Sony fanboys and indeed Sony execs who lauded the seemingly impeccable back-compat capability of the PlayStation. However, what does this mean for us in Europe? Suddenly we are getting a more expensive product that is actually more feature limited than our friends in the US and Japan. Judging by the comments being made on the thread about this on Eurogamer, Sony’s image in Europe just took another body blow.