Sony Computer Entertainment today officially marked the launch of the next-generation Playstation 3 gaming platform in Australia, despite a one-month wait before the product hits retail shelves.
Launched in North America and Japan in November, the local launch was held today at Sydney Theatre, showcasing the new platform's capabilities to both the press and representatives from the vendor's major retail partners including K-Mart, JB Hi-Fi, Myer and Target.
Available March 23, the 60GB Playstation 3 will be sold at an RRP of $999.95, with gaming titles priced at $99.95.
There will be 30 games available at launch. Retailers and journalists were given a sneak preview at some key titles, including first-person shooter, Resistance: Fall of Man and mud-slinging racer, MotorStorm.
Managing director for Sony Computer Entertainment, Michael Ephraim, claimed the vendor would spend some $6 million on marketing the product during its launch period. Marketing exercises include bundling the popular James Bond film Casino Royale (in the new Blu-Ray format) for free to the first 20,000 Australian PS3 buyers who register on the vendor's online network.
Similarly, early buyers will be offered a free download of a sample track from the upcoming Gran Turismo HD racing title.
Ephraim acknowledged Sony's existing PS2 console continued to be a dominant force in gaming, but said the new model contained enough features to warrant an upgrade.
As well as disc-based and online gaming, the device can be used to view movies on Blu-Ray or DVD. It also acts as a CD/MP3 player; a media centre for personal photo, video and music collections; as a Web browsing computer; and as a chat/messaging device.
The PS3 supports high-definition imaging, meaning games and movies can be viewed on 1080p resolution screens and in 7.1 Surround Sound. The device is also 802.11 wireless capable, which enables it to receive streamed content from a user's PC, and has high-speed Ethernet connectivity.
Built-in wireless capability also allows the device to seamlessly interface with Sony's handheld gaming device, the Playstation Portable, launched in September 2005.
Other features include four USB ports, and card readers for Sony Memory Stick, Compact Flash and SD cards.
"The PS3 can also handle firmware upgrades," Ephraim said. "This will keep it at the cutting edge of entertainment. We expect it to be relevant for at least the next decade."
Sony went to great pains to emphasise the Playstation was no longer a product geared exclusively to the teen market, highlighting its media-hub capabilities.
Ever since the original Playstation was launched in 1993, Sony has been about "blowing away any notion that gaming is just for kids", Ephraim said.
"Consumer habits have changed. Personalisation is the dominant theme to technology," he said, showing examples of popular Internet sites, YouTube and MySpace.
"Users are demanding more interactive and participatory experiences. The Playstation 3 liberates consumers from pre-programmed entertainment."