Heir Apparent: What To Expect From Sony's PlayStation 3

Perhaps I am showing my age, but it truly does feel like just yesterday Sony readied itself to launch its highly anticipated "computer entertainment system," the PlayStation 2, back in 2000. Sony's hype that its versatile console would, besides running game software, allow consumers to play those new-fangled DVDs soon morphed into hysteria: reports even surfaced that customers receiving their PS2s were being ambushed by thieves while exiting the store. On a personal note, I seriously considered bringing muscle with me when I went to the mall to collect my pre-ordered, highly coveted PS2 machine all those years ago.

Five years later, we in the gaming community are still wondering what Sony has up its sleeve regarding its latest next generation console. "What does it look like?" and "How much will it cost?" are legitimate questions that Sony fans have been asking each other for months. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles this May, Sony addressed some of those queries. So, without further ado, we here at Gamer's Intuition would like to pass what information we've discovered about the PlayStation 3 on to you.

The Hardware

Interestingly, the attractive design of the cigarette lighter-shaped PS3 is said to have been inspired by the architecture of some well known office buildings in the Roppongi Hills and Shiodome districts of Tokyo. This choice of design seems especially apt once we learn that the PS3 is capable of standing vertically in your home's entertainment center without the aid of any external platform to keep it stable (resembling a skyscraper).

The elusive machine has been photographed in silver, white, and black color schemes and is said to be approximately the same size as the current X-Box. Those of you who have spent a pretty penny repairing broken disc trays on the current PS2, will be happy to note that the PS3 contains no protruding disc receptacles of any sort. You will simply feed CDs, DVDs and game discs easily into a slot at the front of the machine.

At the heart of the system is the PS3's so-called "Cell" processor, developed in association with technology heavyweights Toshiba and IBM. SCEI group executive officer Ken Kutaragi has boasted that this impressive piece of hardware (operating theoretically at 2 trillion floating operations per second) is twice as powerful as the X-Box 360's Xenon CPU (running at a potential 1 TFLOP). However, analysts at anandtech.com caution readers to take the numbers used in marketing spin with the proverbial pinch of salt; they even go so far as to warn that "despite what these horribly concocted numbers may lead you to believe, they say absolutely nothing about performance"... don't fall for it.

On a discouraging note, the PS3 will apparently ship with neither a built-in router nor a hard drive, irritating many fans of the massively-multiplayer online (MMO) genre. However, this ostensibly negative revelation may actually turn out to be an advantage for MMO gamers in the future: the eventual add-on hard drive planned for the PS3 is rumored to be a whopping 80Gb in size - four times as large as the built-in drive expected for the X-Box 360.

Though some consumers may wonder at the decision to ship PS3s without built-in router or hard drive technology, Sony's motivation to cut costs in producing the PS3 seems somewhat justifiable. Consider the fact that although the PS3 was initially projected to cost consumers $300 US, that figure has since spiked to a pricey $400 US. Even so, Sony stands to lose around $100 US (before shipping expenses) for every system it eventually sells. Nevertheless, a confident Kutaragi has stated that even with the hefty pricetag, he is still sure "the PS3 is a product that people will definitely want."

Sony has entrusted the development of a chip for its graphics processor (GPU) to digital media giant nVidia. The graphics power of the PS3 will supposedly outdo the power of two GeForce 6800 graphics cards for the PC put together. nVidia has promised that the "combination of the revolutionary Cell processor and nVidia's graphics technologies will enable the creation of breathtaking imagery that will surprise and captivate consumers."

The Controller

Something I've noticed about console launches is that fans just love to mock the debutant game system's controller, they really do. I can't think of one system that has launched in recent years without universal derision from the game community for the console's respective controller. Most notably, I recall someone saying at GameCube launch that Nintendo's peripheral looked as if Batman had bent a Dual Shock controller and painted it blue.

Not surprisingly, the fancore seems to hate Sony's newest joystick with a passion: is it a croissant? A boomerang? Personally, I think the thing looks pretty good and probably plays even better; I bought a third-party controller shaped exactly like PS3's for the first PlayStation, and I can honestly say that it was probably the most ergonomic game peripheral I've ever used.

Nevertheless, from what I've read, the PS3 will be 100% backwards compatible with both PS1 and PS2 games, and that at the very least the Dual Shock 2 controller will function normally with the new system. Still, the new PS3 controller will be fitted with wireless Bluetooth technology, allowing up to seven gamers at a time to play thanks to the elimination of controller ports. Additionally, you'll also be able to use your new PSP as a controller for certain titles.

The Software

Predictably, Sony has opted to go with the Blu-Ray disc media format for PS3 game software. A shocking decision? Not so much, given that Sony is a member of the Blu-Ray Disc Association and in fact helped invent the format.

Okay, so we know what software media format Sony has opted to use for its new machine, but what we really want to know is what kind of games will actually be published for consumers on said format. Well, the first thing to note is that there are literally dozens of games already in development for the PS3 as we speak; however, in the interests of brevity, I will focus on the titles I imagine will be of most appeal to our readers.

First and foremost, we all know from the PlayStation versus Nintendo 64 wars of the '90s that any new console aspiring to succeed must (and I can't stress "must" enough) have a decent selection of enjoyable role-playing games. Along this line, let me assure you dungeon crawlers out there that there is indeed a Final Fantasy game currently in development for the PS3. There has been some speculation that this new title is actually a remake of FFVII. To this rumor Yoshinori Kitase (director of FFVII) has rather cryptically responded: "As a hint, one thing I can say is that the FFVII technical PS3 demo was supervised by me and created by Toriyama-san (Main Director on Final Fantasy X-2) and his team staff. I'll leave it to you, but you can imagine that development is happening via a similar process."

Did you get all that? Well, what matters here is that a Final Fantasy game, remake or not, is ultimately on its way to the PS3.

Additionally, here's an intriguing title that first-person shooter fans should keep their eyes peeled for: Sega's premiere offering for the PS3 will in fact be an arresting gunslinger called Fifth Phantom Saga. Like all FPS games, you'll play the trigger-happy character brandishing a weapon behind the game's camera, but this time you'll have a blue, radioactive-looking assistant as a sidekick to aid you. Reportedly, he helps you solve puzzles, deactivate force fields, and the like. I predict this graphically intense game will definitely be one to watch at PS3 debut. And it's Sega!

Of course, I couldn't leave all you Dante groupies out there in the lurch without mentioning a little something about everybody's favorite protagonist of Devil May Cry. And unfortunately I mean a very little something, as details about this game are frustratingly sketchy. A trailer for this Capcom adventure was shown at E3 highlighting Dante's fighting skills in a snowy environment. Typically beautiful stuff from this worthy franchise.

Launch Date

One last thing: allow me fill you in on the release data we have so far for the PS3. Apparently, the system will launch no earlier than spring 2006, but whether it will debut in North America, Japan, or worldwide is any fan's guess. My prediction is that Sony will do what it takes to ensure a fall release for the PS3 in North America (in time for Christmas) and a spring launch in Japan.

However, and by far the funniest rumor I've encountered in my research, analysts at Wedbush Morgan securities have suggested that Sony will likely delay its launch of the PS3 until 2007 in the event that Microsoft's X-Box 360 fails to "garner sufficient software support to gain an insurmountable lead" in the console wars.

(Writer smothers intense laughter with her hand.)

Ahem. So yes, barring any abysmal or cataclysmic failures for Microsoft's mean machine, you can start saving now to purchase your PS3 in mid-2006.