Why 2008 could be the year of the PS3

Will 2008 be the year that the PS3 finally proves its worth as a home entertainment hub?

While it has undoubtedly suffered from some teething problems, 2008 could well be the year that Sony's PlayStation 3 finally comes good.

With the high-def disc format war all but won, a number of PS3-exclusive titles in the pipeline and the PlayStation Network finally taking shape, Sony is even hopeful that it can begin to sell its console at a profit.
The 40GB PS3 gamble

Speaking at CES, Sony Computer Entertainment chief exec Kaz Hirai said that Sony is aiming to make the PS3 console profitable during the next financial year. Each PS3 console is currently sold at a loss - a price Sony has been willing to pay to lure in early adopters and hardcore gamers, as well as to build up a sizeable installed base of Blu-ray players.

According to Hirai, lower production costs along with the introduction of the 40GB PS3 model with fewer components finally gives Sony a good chance of turning a profit on the console in 2008. Hirai stopped short of promising to make money on each console sold. But he did say that his division would be "shooting" for it next year.

Strong Christmas sales saw Sony shift 1.2 million PS3s in North America, two-thirds as many as it sold in the entire year. This resurgence of interest has undoubtedly been fuelled by the low price tag, the lack of availability for Nintendo's Wii over Xmas, and a wealth of new games promised for 2008.
Good games will spark sales

According to Barry Keating from independent PlayStation magazine PlayStation World, 2008 is set to be an even bigger year for new games. "During 2008 we're going to see a number of PS3-exclusive titles coming to market, including massive franchises like Killzone 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4. There's a lot of excitement out there about the games to come."

In addition to downloadable games content, and adding to the idea that the PS3 is more than just a games console, is Sony's PlayTV. This allows users to watch and record digital terrestrial television. There's no official word as yet, but some Sony watchers expect the service to be expanded, with the possibility of on-demand material being made available.

Sony has already inked a deal with Sky to provide on-demand video for the PSP, so it's by no means impossible.
The Blu-ray factor

However, perhaps Sony's biggest gamble with the PS3 was to make it a Blu-ray player as well as a next-gen games console. With the recent news of Warner Bros' defection to the Blu-ray camp, alongside rumours that Paramount may follow, the hi-def format war appears to have been won by Blu-ray.

The PS3 is rightly regarded as one of the best Blu-ray players currently on the market - a recent firmware update added the latest Profile 1.1 functionality. And with a price tag of only £279.99, the PS3 is now going to appeal to serious movie buffs as much as hardcore gamers.

Of course, the big question gamers will now be asking is whether more sales and increased savings will be passed on in the form of price reductions. Or has Sony pushed the price of its console as low as it can realistically go?

PSW's Barry Keating can't see another price drop. "I'd be surprised if it were to happen. Currently, it's possible to pick up a 40GB model for £279 and, for what you are getting, I think that's an absolute bargain. It's not just a games console; it's a full high-definition home entertainment system. People are starting to see that now."

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