PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 reduce console prices

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      Gamers have long been waiting for Sony to drop the price of its PlayStation 3 console, and on September 1 they got a lower price ($299) and new hardware.

      The new PS3 has been completely redesigned. It has a textured, matte finish; is two-thirds the size of the original; and is equipped with a 120-gigabyte hard disc.

      Matt Levitan, marketing and public-relations manager for PlayStation Canada, told the Straight that he’s impressed by what his company’s engineers have accomplished with the new hardware. “We got it to as small as it’s going to get,” he said by phone from his office in Toronto.

      The thinner PS3 retains nearly all the functionality of the earlier models, including a full-featured Blu-ray Disc player. Gone, however, is the ability to install other operating systems, like Linux, on the console. Levitan said he hopes that the small minority of people who care about this feature have already bought their PS3.

      Microsoft, meanwhile, has dropped the price of the Xbox 360 Elite—which also has a 120-gigabyte hard disc—to $329.99. Craig Flannagan, platform manager for Xbox Canada, told the Straight from his office in the Toronto area that Canadians are being offered limited numbers of a bundle that includes an Elite console, the game Halo 3, and a wireless-network adapter for the above price.

      The Xbox 360 Arcade model, with 256 megabytes of internal storage, has also been reduced in price, to $229. The Xbox 360 Pro model has been discontinued. Any remaining units of this 60-gigabyte model will be sold at $279. Flannagan said that, in talking with consumers, Microsoft determined that the Elite and Arcade models met most people’s needs.

      While there have been no announcements of changes to the hardware—such as the addition of built-in wireless-network functionality—Flannagan said, “We’re always innovating on the platform.”

      As for Nintendo, the company hasn’t made any announcements about a price drop for the Wii. “Nintendo is very comfortable with the price of our Wii system, and based on what we see every month, it’s clear that consumers are comfortable with the price,” Matt Ryan, a Nintendo of Canada spokesperson, told the Straight from his Vancouver office.

      Ryan admitted that Nintendo has thrown the five-year product life cycle—once the norm for its hardware—out the window. Aside from some changes to the system that have been delivered through software updates, the Wii is pretty much the same today as it was when it took the industry by storm in November 2006.

      While he didn’t rule out the possibility of changes to the Wii hardware in the future, Ryan said that so far Nintendo has chosen to focus on developing peripherals, like the recently released Wii MotionPlus, and enhancing the experience consumers get playing games using the Wii’s motion-sensing controllers.