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Opinion: PlayStation breaks its five-year curse

A new system at a new RRP will tempt new consumers yet sell at a profit, writes Rob Crossley

Ken Kutaragi's fingerprints have nearly faded completely. His farcically ambitious PlayStation 3 hardware design, finalised six years ago, left Sony with the preposterous task of pitching a high-end console at £425 and yet still make a loss on each sale.

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The original PS3 (2006)

Fortunately, or not, the loss-making system didn't exactly sell spectacularly at first. Sony's curse of cost had repelled consumers. The company could huff and puff all it wanted; even the most fanatical PS3 fan couldn't part with £500 for a new console and game.

Rubbing salt into the wounds, the PS3 manufacturer was hit by allegations of arrogance back in 2007 when the system launched across Europe, and a sense that it was out of touch with consumer habits. This followed a disastrous E3 press conference that left a memorable expression of anxiety etched across the face of the usually composed Sony exec Phil Harrison.

How times have changed. This Christmas, the new-look PS3 will challenge to be the most inexpensive console in stores, at about £185 in the UK. This will drive down the cost of older models too, which Sony confirmed to CVG this morning will be phased out at retail.

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The first slim model (2009)

PlayStation's marketing minds will be focused on PS Vita come Christmas - another system cursed by its RRP - so it's fortunate that the new PS3 model is inexpensive enough to sell itself, with staff at GAME and GameStation no doubt informing customers of new cut-price deals.

But crucially for PlayStation, this new model will still likely be sold at a profit. Parent company Sony is today trapped somewhere between disaster and oblivion, posting near-unimaginable multi-billion dollar losses as it attempts a sweeping cost-cutting operation.

All Sony Computer Entertainment divisions - across Europe, America and Japan - have been shouldered with the responsibility to turn a profit for its embattled parent company. Which is why, one would argue, PlayStation has made key changes to the new PS3 such as replacing the electrical disc-loading bay with a manual shutter.

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The final version (2012)

Sony engineers will no doubt ensure that the new PS3's extra plastic doesn't feel too plasticy, but the overall redesign is built with cost-efficiency in mind. Trapped between driving down prices and pushing up profits, it's hard to fault PlayStation for its final solution.

The Cell chip architecture is the only remaining true hallmark of Kutaragi's designs. By the time PS4 comes around, that will be gone too. The five year journey hasn't exactly been smooth for PlayStation, but you can't say the company isn't learning along the way.

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