Image: Sony exec holds PS3 prototype
Kevork Djansezian  /  AP
Ken Kutaragi, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., holds up a prototype of the new PlayStation 3. “PS3 truly is the system to be placed in the center of living rooms,” he said.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 5/16/2005 10:34:56 PM ET 2005-05-17T02:34:56

Sony Corp. unveiled its new PlayStation 3 video game console to a cheering crowd of thousands Monday, promising that its speed and high-definition graphics will carry it to victory in the next round of the console wars.

“PS3 truly is the system to be placed in the center of living rooms in homes around the world,” Ken Kutaragi, the head of Sony’s game unit, said Monday.

Those living rooms and homes will have to wait until spring of 2006, however. Kaz Hirai, chief executive of Sony Computer Entertainment America, dismissed suggestions that this would put the PS3 at a significant disadvantage to the Xbox 360, which Microsoft announced last week would arrive around Thanksgiving of this year.

“Really, a half year difference is not that big of a deal," said Hirai. "We plan on continuing to lead.”

Nintendo said Monday that its next-generation console, codenamed "Revolution," will also not hit the market until 2006.

(MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

Sony officials touted the new technology inside the PS3, particularly the custom-designed "Cell" chip, which will enable fast performance of movie-quality games and high-definition video.

The console will also support Blu-ray, a high-definition and high-capacity format for the next generation of DVDs that is backed by Sony. It will feature a built-in Ethernet port for high-speed Internet access, a removable hard drive and support for two different types of wireless networking.

The box itself is about the same size as the most recent versionof the PlayStation 2, but with one side more rounded. The PS3 will come in three colors: black, silver and white. The new console will be able to run the thousands of games available for the older PS2 and PS1, officials said.

Prices or a specific lineup of games that will be available were not provided, though Sony showed off numerous demonstrations of games in development, including "Fight Night: Round 3" from Electronic Arts and a new version of the racing game "Gran Turismo."

A demonstration of "KillZone," a first-person shooter that was panned when it was first released last year, drew cheers from the crowd Monday for its rich graphics.

Sony unveiled the PS3 prototype ahead of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, the annual video game industry gathering that formally opens on Wednesday.

Several thousand people packed into a Sony Pictures soundstage in Culver City to hear and see the announcement, which was broadcast on a massive TV screen for those too far back from the stage to see it. The crowd was enthusiastic but often quiet, perhaps lulled by the ambient lighting and soothing tones of light techno music that suffused the soundstage.

Microsoft offered further details of its own next-generation console in a news conference Monday night, including the news that the Xbox 360 would be backward compatible with approved games for the original Xbox.

At stake for both companies, and for third-place Nintendo, is gaming dominance for years to come. Moreover, with all the new platforms heavily focused on multimedia, analysts expect that whichever company wins the next round of console wars essentially wins the living room.

The PlayStation 2, released in 2000, dominates the worldwide console market, and the video game business has become a central profit driver for Sony, even as some of its other divisions have struggled.

MSNBC's Tom Loftus in Los Angeles, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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