Sony to add 160 GB option for PS3, new high-color screen for PSP

In a series of announcements this afternoon, Sony says its preparing to distribute a wide array of new gaming system features well for the holiday season, including a new hard disk capacity for its upper-tier PlayStation 3.

As of last February, Sony was bundling its $499, upper-tier PlayStation 3 as an 80 GB console with Metal Gear Solid 4 and a DualShock 3 controller. Then last month, the new CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America announced an 80 GB Core package for $399 in lieu of an actual price cut.

So there was indeed another shoe, perched precariously over the precipice. Today, it has officially dropped, as Sony is gearing up to unveil its highest capacity PS3 to date, with 160 GB on the disk, 256 MB of system RAM plus 256 MB of GDDR3 for graphics, HDMI, and Wi-Fi. The upper-tier will be bundled with the new Sony game Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and a DualShock 3 controller.

Come November, this will be the new $499 system, maintaining Sony's pattern of two principal bundles. Its introduction confirms rumors that have been swirling around the gaming community since last October.

Gaming enthusiasts have been preparing for clues as to the contents of this PS3 buildout, to determine whether the new system will be compatible with older PlayStation 2 games, as some of the first PS3s actually were. In this case, some are saying the presence of two USB 2.0 sockets but the absence of a flash memory port suggests that this console may actually be a beefed-up version of what Sony had been selling as its lower-tier 40 GB model last year. That model was not compatible with PS2 games.

One of the new accessories Sony is telling gamers to expect this holiday season is a wireless keypad addition to the DualShock 3 controller -- something that can seamlessly (somehow) socket itself to the side of the unit. Though without providing any advance pictures, Sony is saying that the keyboard element of this keypad can double as a touch-sensitive pad with the flip of a switch, which implies that this device may not have moving keys in the traditional sense, but rather sensitive regions that can behave as keys. That may lead developers to wonder whether those regions are actually programmable -- that is, whether exclusive templates could be distributed for specific games that support the keypad.

Also this afternoon, Sony announced that on October 14 in the US, its venerable PlayStation Portable will be updated with a new glare-resistant display with a higher color gamut than the current model.

Reporters got their first peek at the model PSP-3000 earlier this afternoon at a Sony press conference in Leipzig, Germany, though official photos have not yet been released. The company says this afternoon it doesn't look substantially different than the current PSP-2000 model, which was only recently slimmed down, although its initial rollout will evidently be limited to a "Mystic Silver" finish. However, the new model adds a built-in microphone, which Sony is explicitly saying will enhance its capability to serve as a vehicle for Skype calls.

The new PSP will be rolled out first as a bundle-only promotion on October 14. That bundle will feature a 4 GB memory stick, an entertainment package which features a new edition of the popular game series Ratchet & Clank, and a UMD version of the movie National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets.

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