If you live in Europe and youâ€™re into gaming, youâ€™re probably well aware that Sony will finally be releasing its PlayStation 3 on the 23rd March â€“ a full four months after it hit the street in Japan and the US. This situation is particularly disappointing considering that less than a year ago Sony promised a Worldwide release of the PS3 for November 2006, especially since Microsoft had managed to launch the Xbox 360 in America, Japan and Europe all within a few weeks.
For someone like me though, Europe having to wait for new gaming hardware is nothing new. I can remember importing all my games consoles from Japan because it was often over a year before region specific hardware hit the UK. Then there was the issue of the games running slower on PAL consoles, which reinforced my desire to pay inflated prices for imported hardware. But I had hoped that those bad old days were over.
The decision to postpone the European launch of the PS3 seemed like lunacy on Sonyâ€™s part. Not only was Sony gifting another Christmas to Microsoft, but it also opened the door for Nintendo to sweep the board during the yuletide period, with many Xbox 360 owners splashing out on a Nintendo Wii to complement their gaming hardware. Not only did Nintendo manage to pull a superb white rabbit out of the hat with the Wii, but it also managed a similar launch schedule to Microsoft, with Europe only a couple of weeks behind the US and Japan. Throw in the fact that the Wii is very affordable and a hell of a lot of fun, and you can see why itâ€™s been flying off shelves around the world.
So now Sony is left touting the PS3 in Europe after the Christmas buying frenzy is over, at a price thatâ€™s higher than a Core Xbox 360 and a Wii together. Even if you go for the more realistic Premium Pack Xbox 360 and a Wii, youâ€™ll still only come in Â£45 more than the PS3. Of course Sony will argue that the PS3 is good value for money considering whatâ€™s inside it, and that statement does have a certain degree of merit when you consider that a stand alone Blu-ray player will set you back around Â£900!
So, if youâ€™re looking for a way to watch high definition movies, the PlayStation 3 makes a good case for itself. For around half the cost of a standalone Blu-ray player, you can have a device that will play Blu-ray discs and much more. But what if you donâ€™t want to play Blu-ray discs? What if you just want to play games? Well, in that case, youâ€™re paying a lot for functionality that youâ€™ll never use, and once again it looks as though Nintendo has got it right â€“ the Wii just plays games and nothing else, it wonâ€™t even play DVD movies, let alone either of the new high definition formats.
You see Sony sees the PS3 as far more than just a games console. Instead Sony wants your shiny new PlayStation to be the centre of your living room entertainment setup, and although this seems like an ambitious approach, the PS3 certainly has the versatility to pull off such a feat, assuming that the general consumer is willing to swallow that hefty price tag. But for us in the UK, stumping up Â£425 for a PS3 is made all the more difficult considering how much the device costs in other territories.