LOS ANGELES--At today's pre-Electronic Entertainment Expo conference held at Sony Pictures Studios, two questions that have been on gamers minds were answered. Sony president Kaz Hirai revealed the PlayStation 3's price and launch date. The PS3 will be released in Japan on November 11, and the United States on November 17, 2006. Like the Xbox 360, the PS3 will come in two configurations, one with a 20GB hard drive and one with a 60GB hard drive.
The 20GB will retail for $499 in the US (59800 yen in Japan, 499 euros in Europe), and the 60GB model will retail for $599 (open price in Japan, 599 euros in Europe). Sony expects to ship two million units in its first month of launch, four million by the end of the year, and six million by the end of its fiscal year, which ends in March 31.
Sony's conference got off to a shaky start when it was delayed by almost an hour. Though it was set to begin at 4:00 p.m., Sony president Kaz Hirai didn't even welcome attendees until just after 4:50 p.m. The gaming press milled around the Sony Pictures' lot, waiting for entry into the hangar-sized sound stage. Even industry luminaries such as Konami's Hideo Kojima had to wait outside, like everyone else.
4:40pm: Attendees are filing into the auditorium as a DJ spins the Beastie Boys, Michael Jackson, and Sean Paul. A giant screen bears the classic PlayStation logo. Banks of monitors flank the room on either side of the stage.
4:52: Kaz Hirai takes the stage and welcomes the crowd. He mentions Sony's 2005 E3 Conference and the unveiling of the PlayStation 3. "In essence, the real power of the PlayStation 3 rests in the hands of the content creators and ultimately the consumers...PlayStation 3 is the most ambitious project we have ever undertaken in our history," he says.
4:55: Hirai teases some of today's news, but then says it's time to take a look back at Sony's past performance.
4:59: At the 18-month mark, the PlayStation Portable is the fastest-selling console in Sony history. They shipped 47.3 million games as of the end of March. And now they're showing a list of new games for release by the end of the year. Ape Escape 2, Planet PSP, Killzone Liberation, B-Boy break-dancing game, Loco Roco, Syphon Filter Dark Mirror, World Tour Soccer 2, Talk Man, Gangs of London.
5:03: The Greatest Hits program is coming to the PSP starting with ATV Offroad Fury, Ape Escape: On the Loose, Hot Shots Golf, Twisted Metal, and Wipeout Pure.
5:05: RSS channel, expanded UMD video profile, voice over IP, camera, and GPS support are being added to the PSP in future updates. They then showed a video of gamers around the world talking about their PlayStation memories.
5:08: It's a refresher course on the PS3 stats. It will support standard definition as well as high-def setups. It will communicate with the PSP and support Blu-ray video, PS, and PS2 games.
5:12: Hirai gives a few stats, saying PS users are more likely to be HD viewers. The hard disc drive will ship with a hard drive in the box for every system.
5:14: Hirai says the "clear black" color system will be available at launch.
5:15: SCE president of worldwide studios Phil Harrison takes the stage, then promptly introduces Kazunori Yamauchi of Polyphony Digital. Yamauchi is holding what looks like a DualShock controller.
5:19: The next Gran Turismo will run at 60fps with menus designed for HD resolution. Players will be able to play vehicles ranging from race cars to commercial transportation to scooters. Hirai demonstrates the Tokyo track in replay form. He says it is broadcasting three times the amount of information on screen as normal HD broadcasts, or 12 times the amount of information GT4 on the PS2 conveys to a television. In loading another track, he asks the audience to pay attention to the load times. For Gran Turismo HD, he says it has been optimized for the hard drive-equipped PS3 and says players should be able to get from the menu to the race in two or three seconds. For the demo shown, it takes slightly longer.
5:24: A pack of cars race around a track. The engines sound like jets taking off an aircraft carrier, but before the race is finished, they cut back to the original Gran Turismo to show how far the series has come.
5:28: The third track demo is the Grand Canyon, with vintage cars racing around. After the demo, Hirai says Sony will be conducting beta testing based on GT4 online capabilities in Japan and the US. He says the world of GT will not expand, but rather it will explode. They hope to deliver the next GT "not too far" from the PS3 launch.
5:31: EyeToy creator Dr. Richard Marx is here to introduce the Eye of Judgment, an EyeToy card-battle monster game. He is placing real cards in the EyeToy's view, and monster graphics are appearing on the cards to do battle. This game will be at Sony's booth.
5:34: Kaz Hirai is back out to talk about the online strategy. He says online and network will be like air conditioning in a car: a standard feature. He says online and networking for the PS3 "is as essential as the air that we breathe." He says by offering a variety of social functionalities beyond gaming (messaging, player profiles, friends list), Sony will create a community, a "virtual society," free of charge.
PSP users will be able to play emulated PS games, booting up directly from the memory stick. He navigates through the PSP menu and boots up a game. Galaga comes up as the game loads--it's Ridge Racer.
5:40: Hirai says this is part of Sony's plans to leverage its systems life spans and extend them for more than 10 years. People can pick up the PlayStation Card at retailers, which will let them buy additional content. Phil Harrison shows the online store interface for the PS3.
He shows an example of how it will work using SingStar for the PS3, scrolling through dozens of songs from Billy Joel to Destiny's Child. The interface includes a price ($0 for now to keep the pricing strategy secret), as well as other information about the song. There's also the option to see who else is on SingStar and customize the user's background.
5:45: Bill Rich of Game Republic takes the stage to introduce Genji 2. Dozens of samurai battle on screen as Bill cuts them down where they stand. He switches characters on the fly and says that ability will be used by players to create new and unique combos. To take on a giant crab boss, he uses the more powerful character to flip the crab on its back, then calls in the swift character to hop on its stomach and attack a glowing, purple weak point. This will also be playable at Sony's E3 booth.
5:50: Harrison shows a PS3 F1 game with an interactive wing mirror. A PSP he is holding is displaying a rear view in the game in real time.
5:51: Ninja Theory's Heavenly Sword is next. A red-headed woman in white uses a pair of large swords and a variety of hand-to-hand combat techniques to best a number of opponents in gladiatorial combat. The screen cuts to cinematic angles for special moves and particularly impressive sequences, including one complex sequence that has players following a number of button prompts onscreen.
5:56: A quick trailer of Lair played, followed by clips from the next Getaway, Afrika (working title), Everybody's Golf (better known as Hot Shots Golf in the US), and Monster Kingdom. They are followed by the debut of Eight Days, which showed a high-octane shootout at a dusty truck stop in the middle of nowhere.
6:03: Next up is a trailer for Naughty Dog's next project.
A pan around maps and jungles ends when a man in a T-shirt and jeans starts getting into gunfights with armed mercenaries. No name was given, and they quickly go to Insomniac president Ted Price taking the stage. He talks about Resistance: Fall of Man and an alternate history where World War II never happened and aliens invade. He says it is "intense, bleak, and brutal." Then he introduces a trailer for it.
6:07: The Resistence trailer qualifies as bleak, brutal, and intense. It is a noisy, violent first-person shooter set in an utterly destroyed city. Price thanks the audience and says the game will be playable at the show. Harrison says "that sums up our playable section," and returns the stage to Hirai. Hirai turns the topic to third parties, and introduces a selection of titles from other publishers. Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed is first, followed by a new Gundam game from Bandai Namco, Konami's Coded Arms Assault, Bandai Namco's Ridge Racer 7, Ubisoft's Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway, Bandai Namco's Tekken 6, Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega's Virtua Tennis 3, Sega's Virtua Fighter 5, Midway's Stranglehold, Koei's Fatal Inertia, Koei's Bladestorm: The Hundred Years War, and From Software's Armored Core 4.
6:17: Electronic Arts CEO Larry Probst takes the stage. He says he will show two brief demos, and introduces NBA Live executive producer Kevin Wilkinson. He shows a PS3 player model reacting to a cursor moving in 3D space, then shows a PS2 player model not reacting to the same thing. He details "foot-planting, which makes the players in the PS3 game actually have to move their feet and plant them to move instead of just sliding around." He shows the players moving around in 360-degree arcs, then demonstrates a real-time demo of what he's talking about.
6:21: The second EA demo is for Tiger Woods's next game, which uses the "U-cap" motion-capture technique. Instead of a playable golf game, the demo shows a lifelike Tiger Woods model that grins, frowns, and reacts to shots with realistic facial expressions and body mannerisms.
6:25: A trailer for Square Enix's Final Fantasy XIII is shown, eliciting a couple scattered hoots and hollers throughout the audience. Then a Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer comes up, to an even larger crowd reaction. It deals with the next game's plot and shows a number of the returning characters rendered in detail for the PS3. An elderly Solid Snake talks about one last thing he has to do, then puts a loaded gun in his mouth, calling it his "final mission." After a loud bang, the scene cuts to an all-red screen.
6:32: Ken Kutaragi takes the stage, and asks the crowd if they enjoyed the latest progress on PS3 titles, which is met with some applause and cheers. Kutaragi then promises "one more big thing we have kept secret." He talks about the controller of the 1994 PlayStation controller's debut. He promises to enhance controllability to the next tier for the next generation. He then holds up the final PS3 controller. It's a silver DualShock with a little black button in the middle and the classic PlayStation logo on it. He asks Harrison to demonstrate what the controller can do. A demo trailer shows a crate, hopping around of its own accord. It breaks open and the PS3 controller is inside. He lifts the controller up, and the controller on the screen lifts up. With no external sensor required, he can move the controller in six degrees of movement.
6:36: Harrison notes that the Bluetooth-capable, wireless controller will be lighter than the PS2's normal controller and calls it "a fantastic innovation." Harrison says Incognito's Warhawk will make use of the motion-sensing capabilities, then asks Incognito's Dylan Jobe to demonstrate. He controls the game's fighter using the PS3 controller as a proxy, tilting the controller to gain altitude, bank, and perform barrel rolls and other actions.
6:41: Hirai takes the stage once again and recaps what's been seen so far. Then he announces the global launch details. The PS3 will be available in two versions: one with a 60GB hard drive and one with 20GB hard drive. It will launch in the US on November 17 at $499 ($549 CDN) for the 20GB version and $599 ($659 CDN) for the 60GB one. The machine will launch in Japan on November 11 with the 20GB version fetching 59,800 yen and the 60GB one bearing an "open price," which means retailers will set the price themselves. Europe and Australia will also get the machine on November 17, with the 20GB version running for 499 euros and the 60GB configuration going for 599 euros. Hirai thanked the audience and invited them to get their hands on PS3 games at kiosks throughout the hall.
For another take on Sony's E3 2006 press conference, check out senior editor Jeff Gerstmann's blog of the event.