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Opinion

What A PlayStation 3 Hardware Revision Might Mean

Smaller, lighter, more appealing.

The chance of Sony unveiling a new PlayStation 3 hardware revision at Gamescom seems to be becoming more likely every day. We’ve heard rumours ranging from vague assumptions through to today’s appearance of label positioning on a new-looking casing. The PlayStation 3 has, of course, already had a hardware revision. In fact, if you count the downgrade of the launch models to exclude PlayStation 2 disc compatibility, USB ports and memory card slots, it’s had two.

Why would Sony want to introduce a new model now, with the PlayStation 4’s assumed release window looming? It’s all about the money.


The third PS3 hardware revision is already quite svelte.
The PS3 Slim is – as the oft-repeated mantra at the time of its release informed us – 32 per cent smaller, 36 per cent lighter and it consumes 34 per cent less power than the model it replaced. Many of us consumers seem to have made the assumption that the PS3 Slim was a reaction to the escalating “Yellow Light of Death” issue that was killing off original model PS3s at an increasing rate back in 2009 when the Slim was announced at Gamescom.

If Sony simply wanted to improve reliability, they could have just revised the components like Microsoft did in overcoming their “Red Ring of Death” problem long before their 360S revised the form factor. The reason for making and selling a smaller, lighter machine was because it’s cheaper than making and selling a larger, heavier one.

Production costs, we assume, are significantly less expensive on the PS3 Slim. New components account for that to a degree but seemingly minor things like less plastic being used for casing all add up when you’re shipping unit numbers in the millions. That benefit has a knock on benefit right through the supply chain too. Less packaging, more units per shipment due to the space they take up, cheaper shipping because they’re lighter and more economical use of warehouse space for storage will all make significant savings.

An even smaller and lighter unit would further increase those margins.

That’s the practical benefits to remodelling the PlayStation 3 but what about the more fantastical speculation we’ve seen about a stop-gap upgrade that improves on the hardware’s capabilities as well as the form factor?

Sony’s streaming ambitions are now out in the open. We’ve heard rumours that a new console might be in development that does not have a disc drive. While that seems very unlikely due to Sony’s investment in Blu-ray, not to mention the physical media’s persisting importance in home entertainment, a slight shift in focus is now seemingly inevitable over the coming years. Could Sony begin that shift with an upgrade to the PS3 hardware?

A new PlayStation hardware revision could mark a new approach for Sony. It could present them with the opportunity to put their products and services into an affordable package that has a much wider target market than they can currently appeal to. A smaller set top box with an emphasis on media streaming, catch up TV services and online connectivity would allow them to scale back their extremely costly TV manufacturing business. With an affordable PlayStation hardware upgrade, any TV could be a smart TV.

Sony has an opportunity to do what many suspect Apple and Google to be planning for their living room futures and Sony can do it right now.

We know about game streaming thanks to the recent acquisition of Gaikai but that technology could be put to use for far more than just streaming game demos. Gaikai streaming of Sony’s movie and television business could become extremely lucrative. Consider that alongside the existing streaming services from Netflix, Amazon Instant, LoveFilm et al. and the catch up TV streaming services (and sports apps like MLB.tv in the US). Sony has the potential to become a massive provider of entertainment services via streaming and their PSN infrastructure, perhaps even the largest, almost immediately.


The Orbis sketches are ugly but might end up providing some exciting business for Sony.
There are persistent rumours around refined motion control systems and by now you’ve probably all seen the concept sketches that seem to show a Sony system working in a similar way to Kinect. Better cameras, gesture and voice recognition software makes that vision a very real possibility but not necessarily in a new full generation of gaming hardware. With a slight revision to hardware and some new camera technology, they could  catch up with Microsoft’s lucrative (if unpopular for some) motion control market and help pioneer gesture controlled television and video conferencing before Apple’s much assumed arrival in that arena.

Sony isn’t only in the business of selling games and game hardware – they’re a massive company with fingers in many pies. They could tie a lot of their business arms – including developments they’ve made in streaming media, television, internet technologies and communication – together with a slight revision to the PlayStation 3 hardware. That product could have mass appeal far beyond what the PlayStation 3 is currently capable of.

A new name (Orbis?) would help the device appeal to the much larger market of tech-buyers who don’t want a “gaming device” but are increasingly looking for media streaming and “lifestyle” devices. Essentially, this is simply what the PS3 was always intended to be, just updated for recently emerging technology trends and not necessarily hampered by the persisting stigma (among many tech buyers) of being a games console.

This revision wouldn’t necessarily split the user base either. The existing PlayStation 3 wouldn’t lose any features (it might even gain some – hardware permitting) and the new revision would be largely focused on other services so future games output would still work on older machines. Those leaked (or hoax) Microsoft documents seem to point towards a similar direction for the Xbox too, with a change in the way they position it to consumers, a possible slight hardware alteration and a focus on services that can be pushed into people’s living rooms ahead of next year’s big console generation change.

Given that the arrival of the PlayStation 4 is widely expected for late next year, and taking into account the losses Sony is likely to need to absorb on that, a new “mass-appeal” hardware unit with low manufacturing costs might be just the thing to help Sony achieve their ambitious financial projections over the next 18 months. A revision to the PlayStation 3 hardware might be just the thing to turn Sony’s fortunes around.

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29 Comments
  1. cam the man
    Member
    Since: May 2009

    Interesting times ahead.
    Just need Sony to announce what their plans are, how long to Gamescon?

    Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 13:27.
  2. Awayze
    Member
    Since: Jul 2010

    I think it’s just a thinner PS3 with maybe PS2 BC. How much can it cost to stick the Graphic Synthesiser back in!

    Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 13:37.
    • KeRaSh
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      With them pushing PS2 HD releases and digital downloads I can asure you that PS2 backwards compatibility is not going to happen. It would also add to the manufacturing costs, which would make it even harder to drop the price of a new model even further.

      Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 13:48.
      • Kreisash
        Member
        Since: May 2010

        Not to mention that it seemed to affect the reliability of the machine.

        Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 18:32.
  3. colmshan1990
    Member
    Since: Apr 2009

    Hopefully a new model PS3 doesn’t look as ugly as the Slim.

    I do love my fat PS3…

    Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 13:40.
    • KeRaSh
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      Yeah, I hope my fat PS3 survives this gen. The Slim PS3 just doesn’t look as sexy as my 80 GB baby.

      Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 13:49.
      • R1MJAW
        Member
        Since: May 2010

        Couldn’t agree more with both of you.

        Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 14:06.
      • SilverCider
        Member
        Since: Jan 2011

        Ditto! Although 80 GB eventually got too small, so it has 320 GB now :D

        Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 16:07.
    • Sympozium
      Member
      Since: Aug 2009

      Perverts.

      Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 20:33.
    • bunimomike
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      I did too but the Slim not only grows on you but makes the old Phat PS3 look outdated and a bit of a bloater compared. Slim all they way! :)

      Comment posted on 06/07/2012 at 14:41.
  4. MICKY17
    Member
    Since: Dec 2008

    Presumably any smaller hardware revision will have to have an external power block as that must surely take up a fair chunk of space inside the machine. If its the right sort of price, I could be convinced to buy one.

    Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 13:51.
    • rossthebassist
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      i would think, external power block, and laptop size bluray drive would significantly decrease the size of ps3

      Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 23:35.
  5. Darth Newdar
    Member
    Since: Oct 2010

    I doubt we’ll see any new features. Smaller, lighter, more efficient, but most important, cheaper to manufacture – that will be Sony’s aim here.

    Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 14:09.
  6. Stealth20k
    Member
    Since: Apr 2012

    Sony is in huge trouble

    they dont even have the capital to buy gakai they are scrounging it together

    Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 14:14.
  7. Pedal_Bike_Pete
    Member
    Since: May 2012

    I still have my original 60 gig, just re applied some thermal compound to it last week to make sure it keeps running smoothly. If it were to break now I don’t know if I’d bother buying another, the slim is fugly as hell :/ Hopefully the next one is as nice as the fat

    Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 14:24.
  8. gazzagb
    Master of speling mitakse
    Since: Feb 2009

    I hope that if they improve the hardware by a lot, they offer a trade in-scheme for those with ‘inferior’ PS3’s. But it depends on the hardware and the new feautures. Streaming doesn’t intrest me, but more memory almost certainly would.

    Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 15:05.
    • hazelam
      Member
      Since: Feb 2009

      what would be the benefit of more memory in a ps3 though?

      games couldn’t use it, well, maybe they could allow developers to make use of it if it’s available.
      but i can’t see sony wanting to create two tiers of users.

      and it would piss off long term ps3 owners who’d see new owners getting potentially better games, assuming any devs utilised it.

      it would help other stuff like the browser though.

      Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 16:07.
      • gazzagb
        Master of speling mitakse
        Since: Feb 2009

        I’m more talking about a faster XMB, quicker loading friends list, and better browser as you say.
        I don’t think increased ram would improve games by that much, except for in game chat or loading the xmb mid-game.

        Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 18:06.
      • hazelam
        Member
        Since: Feb 2009

        i didn’t think about using it for the in game XMB and the like.
        it could work but once again you have the problem of most people not having that memory.

        i just hope sony plan for these features before they launch the next machine rather than patching them in later.

        it’s not like they had no idea what sort of features to add, they had a year of seeing the xbox with cross game chat, custom soundtracks and access to the system menu in game before the ps3 launched.

        Comment posted on 06/07/2012 at 10:34.
  9. hazelam
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    could we see a ps3 with a solid state drive?

    though that wouldn’t really require a new model, and it would throw the smaller and cheaper equation out of whack.

    Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 16:03.
    • SilverCider
      Member
      Since: Jan 2011

      Or maybe just 64 GB of flash memory…

      In saying that SSD would actually be around the same price.. by next year at least!

      Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 16:09.
  10. stueeeee
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    Yeah u just don’t think ps2 compatibility is coming back. I dont even think I’d get it now. I would of snapped it up if it was in the slim. But with the ps2 classics and HD remakes….

    Comment posted on 05/07/2012 at 16:40.

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