Sony Playstation 3 to Have Two Price Levels

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By MATT SLAGLE, AP Technology

Sony Corp sing concerns about the cost of the new PlayStation 3, the video game machine the company is counting on to win a new round of living room dominance.

Sony said two versions of the PS3 will launch in North America on Nov. 17 as part of a worldwide simultaneous launch — a $499 version with a 20 gigabyte hard drive and another with a 60 gigabyte drive for $100 more. Availability had been pushed back from a spring release.

The $499 base price is $100 more than rival Microsoft Corp.’s current top-of-the-line Xbox 360, but that was of no concern to Phil Harrison, president of Sony Computer Entertainment’s Worldwide Studios.

“I think that price and value have always been two different things,” Harrison said. “The PlayStation 3 is now set free. We’ve kind of released it to the world and it’s now clearly defined in the minds of the consumer.”

In a news conference Monday, company officials indicated they would have 4 million units ready by the end of 2006 and another 6 million by March 31, 2007.

Sony also showed off the PS3’s new controller, which looks similar to the one for the older PlayStation 2 but adds motion sensors to detect six degrees of movement. In a demonstration, the controller was used to pilot a jet fighter.

The Xbox 360 got an early start on the next-generation console wars and has sold 3.2 million units worldwide since it was released in November. But until recently, Microsoft Corp. has been unable to meet demand.

The presentation was scheduled two days before the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, the video game industry’s largest annual conference.

Nintendo and Microsoft, with their competing Wii and Xbox 360 systems, plan similar news conferences Tuesday.

Pricing and other details remain sketchy on Nintendo’s Wii (pronounced “We”), which uses a TV-style remote controller that can be waved around to manipulate action on the screen.

This year’s E3 conference comes with the industry in financial turmoil as it transitions from older systems to the new consoles.

According to market research firm NPD Group, overall video game sales dropped 5 percent to $7 billion in the United States last year — much of it blamed on consumers’ desire to hold out for the PS3 and Wii.

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