Will the PlayStation3 Slim revive Sony's fortunes?

Itsuo Inouye/AP
A new PlayStation 3 on display at a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday.

News of the PlayStation3 Slim – and a price drop on the current PS3 console – has been received in the tech press with great fanfare. And why not? For the past couple of years, Sony has been consistently and soundly beaten by its two competitors. Nintendo's Wii attracts the casual gamers; Microsoft's Xbox360 has the widest range of games. Sony is left with the hardcore players – the guys and gals for whom no gaming price tag is ever too high.

So everyone has high hopes for these price cuts. The bottom line, if you haven't been following the story thus far: Effective immediately, Sony has sliced the price of the 80 gigabyte PlayStation 3 to $299. The lighter PS3 Svelte Slim – which comes equipped with a 120 GB hard drive, will hit stores shelves on Sept. 1, for $299. (In other words, there is very little incentive to fork over the 300 bucks now for 80 gigabyte version. Sony is just trying to clear the clutter before trotting out the new model.)

It's been a rough stretch for Sony. The PlayStation3, which was released in 2006 – that year, PS3 packages sold for as much as the hefty sum of $600 – quickly lost ground to Nintendo and Microsoft. The Wii, particularly, has proved tremendously popular with younger audiences – a demographic uninterested in high-powered machines such as the PS3. According to research firm NPD Group, only 122,000 PS3 units sold in July. By comparison, Nintendo sold 252,000 Wii units, and Microsoft unloaded just shy of 203,000 Xbox 360s.

"Hardware sales have slowed considerably on nearly every platform," NPD analyst Anita Frazier told Gamasutra last week, before the official unveiling of the PS3 Slim. "The Xbox 360 is the only console system showing a unit sales increase year-to-date, while the Nintendo DS" – a hand-held system – "has the highest sales of all hardware platforms both for the month, and year-to-date." Sony, obviously, hopes to revive its fortunes. Will it work?

Depends on who you ask

The folks over at Barron's say the PS3 will be a much-needed boost for Sony. "Overall, we feel these hardware price cuts were much needed and are hopeful it will provide a boost to hardware and software sales this Christmas," two Barron's analysts wrote today, noting that Sony claims it is on track for 30 percent year-over-year growth for the PS3.

Others are less sanguine. Here's Nicholas Deleon at CrunchGear:

Watching the news come in yesterday about the PS3 Slim, I said to myself, “Man, this is great for Sony, especially if we’re still in 2006.” Harsh, perhaps, but the sentiment is spot-on: had Sony released the PS3, Slim or otherwise, at $299 back in the autumn of 2006, we could well have seen an effortless transition between the PS3 and PS3. As it turned out, three years later, we’re left wondering this: Is the PS3 Slim enough to, say, re-ignite the Console Wars?


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