The PlayStation 3 is arguably the most advanced of this generation of consoles, with the only other runner being the Xbox 360. All that technology does come at a price, both for Sony and for gamers.
Even more than 2 years after launch, the PS3 is still substantially more expensive than its closest technological competitor. The Xbox 360 with a 60 GB hard drive is $100 less than the PS3 with an 80 GB hard drive. For gamers, that extra $100 may be hard to justify, though for some the Blu-ray Disc playback upgrade more than makes up for it (just check out the Dark Knight or Wall-E in 1080p).
The problem for Sony, as much as it wants to sell its console at a price even below the competition, is that the PlayStation 3 is still an expensive piece of kit. Those who haven’t yet jumped on buying a PS3 might have lost out on PS2 backwards compatibility, card readers and extra USB ports, but could gain a Cell Broadband Engine processor that runs cooler and costs less to manufacture.
“We're always looking at ways to reduce costs, replacing the current 65 nanometer Cell chip with a 45 nanometer one probably in middle of year,” revealed SCEE president David Reeves to the Guardian.
IBM revealed a year ago that it had successfully manufactured a Cell/B.E. on a 45 nm process, which is available in its blade servers. Sony, however, is still selling PlayStation 3 consoles with the 65 nm Cell, perhaps because it still has existing inventory.
The more efficient and economical chip by itself won’t drop the PS3 down to Microsoft’s mainstream option, but Reeves tells us why the extra cash is worth it: "How do I justify it? Look at the capability of the machines. With PS3, you can go online for free, it's got all the games you want, it's got a Blu-ray drive so you don't need a new player, you can store photos on it, and you've got Home [Sony's recently launched online lobby-service].
However, Reeves does concede, "Admittedly, in the current climate, more people will go for the lower price, but we still make a profit and that is our objective."
Sony will continue to find ways to make the console more affordable for consumers. The fact that Sony’s online gaming service is free saves the gamer around $50 a year as compared to Xbox Live. Reeves does say that the Blu-ray Disc drive is here to stay, if there was any doubt.
"We introduced PS3 as a multimedia device - we had to because it had a high price tag. But now you're going to see non-game apps appear: video downloads, music and, of course, it will still play Blu-ray,” he said “Will it be the cheapest player by end of 09? Probably not - but it will make progress."
With sub-$200 Blu-ray Disc players becoming more common, which one would you rather purchase for your home theater?