PS3 slim Q&A with John Koller

SCEA Marketing Boss John Koller talks about the new PS3 Slim. Will it be backward compatible? Is it worth the price? Will there be other price drops in the future? Patrick Shaw got the answers.

PS3 Slim. It's real, and it's in stores. Last time we talked to SCEA hardware marketing boss John Koller, he was teasing us with pre-E3 2009 not long after touting the longevity of the PS2 on its 10-year anniversary and chatting us up on PS3's holiday gameplan. Now that the next evolution of the PlayStation 3 is here, Features Editor Patrick Shaw sat down with Koller to talk about the new system and the future of the PSP Go.

Patrick: So, you just wanna jump right into it?

John Koller: So, obviously, the big announcement is the price drop announcement, and that's effective immediately. The 80 GB [model] and the 160 GB [model] SKUs that we have on market now are going to be marked down as of right now. They're down to US$299 and $399 respectively, and that's obviously something that's critical for us as we go forward in the fall.

And then, we're launching the 120 GB PlayStation 3 system on September 21st at $299; you're looking at a really tremendous value for the customer. Now, the 80 GB and 160 GB are going to sell down and go away. The 120 GB will be our "de facto" moving forward. But when you look at the really incredible line of content coming with the PS3, I think that... [when] you look at the software that's coming up -- Uncharted 2, Ratchet and Clank, and LittleBigPlanet Game of the Year; obviously on third-party side, there's Madden, Assassin's Creed [2], and Modern Warfare -- this is a huge lineup. Mirror that against the Blu-Ray content from our studio partners, the built-in Wi-Fi... the overall value of the PlayStation 3 for the consumer is substantial.

We just think that at the new price point, the value will be incredible and it'll be a very material, important rise in sales for the platform.

GP: This is a question a lot of our readers have had... They're wondering, will the PS3 Slim support Backwards Compatibility?

Koller: No, it won't, actually. Backwards Compatibility plans [are] actually off the table. But, we've noticed [not only] in all of our research, but [also] broadly speaking, we're in our third year now and most of the consumers that purchase the PS3 are purchasing it for PlayStation 3 games. So, those games... we're looking at 80 to 90 percent of consumers purchasing [the system] primarily for PS3 [games]. But, the next-gen intenders that are coming over to purchase the PS3 are purchasing it for the game content that's about to launch, primarily. There's a lot of consumers that are amped up on [forum] boards for Uncharted 2, just like we saw sales increasing from this launch.

GP: If you had to say, what's the main incentive for current PS3 owners to upgrade to the PS3 Slim?

Koller: That's a great question. I do think that, honestly, the functionality is the same. There's certainly design aspects that are very appealing on the new model. But certainly, the older model appeals to a certain demographic as well. But really, it's up to whatever they find most appealing. There's a few changes internally on the new system that may be more material for you in your background and not necessarily the readers, but there's a different size Cell chip that's going from 65 nanometers to 45 nanometers. There's a new cooling system and a new power system that has a third less [of a] power draw, so it's much more power efficient. That, with the new design -- it's a completely different model.

GP: What comes in the box when you purchase the console? Is it just the standard "console, one controller" type of deal?

Koller: Yeah, it's a "core unit". We're not going to be bundling it with games. At least, [not] initially.

GP: Will you still be able to swap out the internal hard drive?

Koller: You will. We actually actively encourage that, for consumers that want to. The hard drive bay has moved from the side to the front, so it's a simple two-screw process. You can unscrew it and put the new Terrabyte model or whatever you like in. Absolutely.

GP: Is it an issue that the 80 GB PS3 now costs $300, which is the same price as a Slim? And will there be another price drop somewhere down the line?

Koller: The 80 GB model is selling down, now. We think that we're gonna have a clean landing getting out of inventory very shortly on that. So, that's not going to be a big issue. We have pockets of inventory right now, but we've obivously been making a very conservative and strategic effort to sell that down as much as possible this whole summer and last spring to get to the point we're at now.

The 160 GB, we have pockets of inventory as well. That was a limited SKU by definition, so that's going to be out of market very soon as well. As for your price drop questions, let's get that today please! But, we obviously have a very proven legacy in terms of our business model. It's definitely different. Today, what you heard today as been in place since we've launched the PS3. We've had plans in place for this new model and the price drop, the strategic price point. I think that what you're seeing today is the result of that. We've been in the industry for a while. You've seen what we've done with the PS2, the PS One and the PSP. We are not reactionary. We make changes to the platform strategically when it hits that step. Today is that step.

We know that the customer coming in is going to be much more akin to purchasing the PS3 at this current price point. Like I said, we see material increase in sales.

GP: The PS3 Slim is now $50 more than the PSP Go. Do you think that there'll be a future price adjustment for the PSP Go?

Koller: The Go is under the same office as the PS3 and all of our platforms. We have a strategic plan in place. We knew the Go was coming quite some time ago, as well, and we planned for everything associated with the platform. It will be launching at $249. There's no changes to that.

For the target consumer for Go, that's a much different type of person. That price point is in the wheel now. If you look at where Apple is, if you look at some other competitors, cell phone and mobile products -- from a handheld perspective, that a good price, and one that I think, will make for really strong sales.

GP: Has Sony learned anything from the design and the slimming down of the PS2 and the PS One, that they applied to the PS3?

Koller: Well, yeah, we've been through this a few times, right? We know what it takes. The PS3's a little bit of a different beast, because the internal makeup is so much more substantial than the PS One and PS2. When you're looking at changing cooling systems and changing power supplies, it takes a little bit of a different engineering know-how than maybe, removing or shrinking down the PS One, for example. We did [that] many years ago, [along with] the PS2 Slim. There was some built-in knowledge, inherently. We have a number of very talented engineers that make this happen on the PS3.

GP: Does Sony have an official stance on all the leaked images we had, with the faux PS3 Slims and the PSP Go leak? Are they doing anything to prevent things like this from happening?

[Sony PR takes over the phone interview from Koller.]

Sony PR: We're obviously doing our best effort to keep things close, but this is such an exciting announcement. Keep in mind, it was a global announcement, so I think the fact that it launched late this morning... [it's] better than other situations we've been in, but we do our best efforts to do that.

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