Sony has finally announced a price and launch date for the PlayStation 3, with the console set to arrive on November 17th, starting from 499 Euro - and sporting a redesigned wireless Dual Shock pad with motion sensing functions.
Full details of the firm's launch plans were revealed at a pre-E3 press conference in the Sony Pictures studios in Culver City, Los Angeles, where the firm also showed off several PlayStation 3 games both in playable and in video form.
SCEA boss Kaz Hirai, worldwide studios head Phil Harrison and SCE president Ken Kutaragi took the stand to reveal new information - and to dispel some speculation, such as the idea that the system might ship without a hard drive, a notion which was quickly laid to rest.
Two versions of the PlayStation 3 will hit the market at launch, both in the black version of the console's livery. The basic version will sport a 20GB hard drive, while the more expensive version has a 60GB drive and will feature Wi-Fi functionality. It will also have inputs for memory sticks, SD and compact flash cards, and HDMI output - unlike the 20GB model.
The system will launch in Japan on November 11th, followed by US and European launches occurring simultaneously six days later, on November 17th. The US Dollar and Euro prices correspond exactly, with the 20GB model priced at $499 / 499 Euro, while the 60GB model is $599 / 599 Euro.
Aside from the dates and prices, Sony's other big secret of the evening was the nature of the controller for the system - which has been one of the best-kept secrets in the industry, with even some of Sony's closest third-party partners being kept in the dark about the pad until today.
Sony has ditched the "boomerang" controller originally seen with the PS3 at E3 last year in favour of sticking to the traditional lines of the Dual Shock 2 controller - but has made several key technical changes to the pad.
Chief amongst these changes is the addition of tilt technology which can sense the motion of the pad through 360 degrees - allowing, for example, the control of games such as air combat title WarHawk, which was used as a demonstration, simply by moving the controller around without actually touching the sticks or buttons.
While the obvious comparison is going to be with Nintendo's Wii controller, the technology used here is actually very different - not least since the PS3 pad does not detect where it is being pointed, as the Wii controller does. As such, the application of the two controllers will be quite different.
Sony has also made the Dual Shock wireless, with a USB charging port on the back of the pad, and in a technical change sure to endear the firm to fans of racing games (such as the next-gen Gran Turismo, a prototype of which was the first software to be showed off at the conference), the R2 and L2 shoulder buttons have become proper triggers, similar to those found on systems like the Xbox 360.
In software terms, Sony confirmed that there will be playable PS3 demo pods on the show floor at E3 - again, dispelling a rumour which has been floating around various blogs and internet news sites for some time - and showed off a range of impressive software, much of it playable or running in real time.
Among the games shown off in real time were Gran Turismo HD, a prototype product, The Eye Of Judgement, a card battling game which uses Eye Toy to allow you to arrange cards on screen with your hands; Ninja Theory's hugely impressive Heavenly Sword; Game Republic's follow-up to PS2 title Genji, Genji 2; and Insomniac Games' Resistance.
In terms of third-party titles and support, EA boss Larry Probst took the stage to show off progress on titles including NBA Live '07 and Tiger Woods, and to reiterate his firm's support for Sony. Other titles such as Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed, Namco's Ridge Racer 7, Sega's Virtua Fighter 5 and Virtua Tennis 3, and From Software's Armoured Core 4 were included in a trailer reel, while Square's Final Fantasy XIII and Konami's Metal Gear Solid 4 merited their own slots at the conference.
The firm also reiterated its commitment to backwards compatibility - and revealed the extent of its plans for digital distribution, which will encompass the distribution of games, movies and music directly to the PS3 and PSP over the network, including delivering PSone back catalogue titles to both platforms.
We'll have more news, reaction and analysis on Sony's announcements as we get it - in the meanwhile, for a full overview of the conference, you can click here to read the archived Livetext feed which was produced collaboratively by GamesIndustry.biz and Eurogamer.net and updated constantly throughout the conference.
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