Sony brings hardware and services to TGS, but forgets games

PlayStation 3 is slimming down. Again. At Sony’s lengthy Tokyo Game Show press conference on Tuesday, the company revealed a new PS3 model, half the size and weight of the original, but retaining the curved form factor of its predecessors.

The refreshed machine will be available in a range of specifications across the territories. A high-end version with a 500GB hard drive is set to replace the current 320GB iteration, at a similar price point of €299 (£240). This will be released in Europe on 28 September. A budget-priced family model will also be available – in the US and Japan this will be based around a 250GB hard drive; in Europe however, a 12GB flash memory model, priced at €230 (£180), will be released on 12 October. Users of this model will also be able to purchase a separate 250GB hard drive for extra storage.

The re-launch will be accompanied by a range of new accessories (including a vertical stand for an alternative storage option) and bundle offers. In the run up to Christmas, purchasers will be able to decide between Fifa 13 and Assassin’s Creed III packs, both providing the console and a copy of the relevant game.

There were to be other minor hardware announcements. The Japanese market will receive two new Vita colours – Cosmic Red and Sapphire Blue – as well as a price drop for PSP-3000 to 13,800 yen. There was no word on whether any of these hue changes would make it to the international market.

There were also announcements about PlayStation services. PlayStation Mobile, Sony’s games platform for Android devices, is to launch on 3 October. The system will provide a range of accredited titles from both established publishers and indie developers, who’ll be able to download a $100 SDK from November. 30 games will be available on day one, and several smartphones from Sony, HTC, Sharp and Fujitsu will have the dedicated PlayStation Mobile app on their menus.

Elsewhere, PlayStation Plus, Sony’s subscription-based premium package is coming to Vita in November. Like the PS3 version it will offer a selection of free downloadable games, as well as discounts on digital purchases, 1GB of cloud-based storage for game saves, and automatic updates and trophy syncs. Those who’ve already signed up for the PS3 version will get Vita membership free, while those who enter PlayStation Plus via the Vita will get PS3 inclusion as well.

There was disappointment for those hoping to hear more about Last Guardian: the long-awaited Team Ico project went unmentioned. And while Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House briefly namechecked the expensively purchased Gaikai service, it was just to say that a new kind of cloud-based offering was on the way as a result of the partnership. Details will no doubt emerge later.

It was also an evening short on game content. Soul Sacrifice, Keiji Inafune’s co-op action game for Vita has been delayed until spring 2013. Namco Bandai has a new Gundam game on the way, also for Vita, and God Eater 2 is coming next year. Marvellous AQL continued a night of domestically focused announcements by confirming Vita releases of Valhalla Knights 3, the old Wii title Oboro Muramasa (aka Muramasa: The Demon Blade) and Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus in 2013. Dynasty Warriors studio Omega Force is working on a cross-platform Vita and PS3 samurai title, Toukiden. It was lacklustre stuff – and a sign that, barring a small audience of Western otaku, Tokyo Game Show is now a truly local event in terms of game announcements.

As for the super duper slim PS3, the message is clear: this is PlayStation 3’s last Christmas before the next-generation machine is announced. With an emphasis on re-purposed hardware and budget-friendly bundling, Sony is looking to prod its seven-year-old standard-bearer into impulse buy territory – a Christmas treat for the family. The press release notably emphasised the large number of Blu-ray movies now available, implicitly positioning the machine, not as a gaming behemoth, but as a reasonably cheap way to get into HD film viewing. It is not just slimming down, some may say, it is signing out. But it is doing so in style.

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