Sony is putting its flagship video game system on a crash diet.
Confirming months of speculation, the company unveiled a redesigned PlayStation 3 at its pre-Tokyo Game Show press conference Wednesday.
The new 'Super Slim' model is roughly the size of a laptop computer and about half as thick as the original PlayStation 3 that hit stores in 2006. Sony says the redesign is 20 percent smaller and 25 percent lighter than the existing model. It also uses a sliding door panel to top load discs, rather than the slot-loading disc drive previous models have used. Functionally, however, it's identical to the current PS3.
In North America, two versions will be available: One packing a 250 GB hard drive for $269, which arrives on Sep. 25, and one with a 500 GB hard drive for $299, which hits stores on Oct. 30.
That pricing scheme has left many scratching their heads. The current entry level PS3 costs $249 -- and with a new Nintendo console hitting in two months at $299, many analysts were expecting Sony to lower the PS3's price even further to woo consumers.
Instead, Sony is relying on the value proposition of the new PS3. The lower-end Super Slim model boasts a bigger hard drive than today's entry-level system (250 GB compared to 160 GB) and will come bundled with Uncharted 3: Game of the Year Edition, as well as a voucher for $30 of "bonus digital content" to be used in the free-to-play title DUST 514. The 500 GB model will come bundled with a copy of Assassin's Creed III.
Still, analysts aren't impressed.
"I think the form factor looks like a nice improvement, but if I were Sony I would focus more on lowering prices," says Colin Sebastian of R.W. Baird. "At this point, in terms of competing at the end of the cycle and in terms of driving more mindshare, I don't think consumers are as interested in the prettiest console they can find, but rather the one that has the best value."
Wedbush Securities' Michael Pachter agrees.
"I think Sony is missing an opportunity to differentiate on price," he says. "And I think they're going to be caught flat footed when Microsoft does something like bundles Kinect with the Xbox for $200."
Other global territories will have a couple other options. Japanese gamers will be able to buy a white Super Slim PS3, while European fans will be offered a system that has a 12 GB flash hard drive rather than the standard one found in traditional systems. Users can add their own hard drive to increase the memory, if they'd like.
At present, it does not appear that either of those systems will make it to America.