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Two versions of PS3 'unlikely'

X360 plan is odd, PSP will get better, Sony will innovate - Phil Harrison

Phil Harrison, VP of studios for Sony Computer Entertainment, has criticised Microsoft for planning to put two versions of the Xbox 360 on the market.

Microsoft recently announced that the Xbox 360 Core System, which does not include a hard disk, will retail for GBP 209.99 at launch. For GBP 279.99 you'll be able to buy a console with a 20GB hard disk, wireless controller, Xbox Live Silver membership, HD-AV cable and removable faceplate.

Speaking at the European Game Developers' Conference in London today, Harrison said Sony was "unlikely" to follow in Microsoft's footsteps and offer two different versions of the PlayStation 3.

"Are there two versions of the Xbox 360 that people want to buy, is my question," he said.

"I don't know. This is my personal view, not my corporate view, but when I look at those formats, I think it just confuses the audience. They don't know which one to buy, developers don't know which one to create for, and retailers don't know which one to stock.

"So I think we wouldn't take that strategy. We wouldn't create confusion," he concluded.

However, Harrison did go on to suggest that we'll have a variety of options to choose from in the longer term.

"There have been various versions and variants of PlayStations in the past - some run through the hardware and some through the software, and that's worked pretty well for us, offering different value propositions to the consumer.

"Exactly what we do with the launch? Too early to tell."

Harrison did give Microsoft props, as the youngsters say, for the Xbox Live service, telling the audience: "Microsoft has done a lot of things right, and there are certainly things that are going to form the model for many of the high quality consumer experiences that we will deliver with PS3.

"But I think our role is always to go beyond, to push further," he continued.

"I'm not in a position today to share with you all the details but PS3 was a network platform from the very beginning, and that is designed into every aspect of the machine."

Harrison said the service will offer free downloads along with content you'll be able to buy direct from the publisher - "We want other companies to see the PS3 as a platform that they can exploit for their content, services and communities."

He was also keen to emphasise Sony's commitment to producing innovative games: "We do have the privilege of being the platform holder, and of having the opportunity and, I think, the responsibility to invest in more esoteric titles.

"We have to continue to put creativity and innovation first, otherwise we will turn into a formulaic industry and consumers will go elsewhere."

And, in contrast to his recent comments slamming the Nintendo DS as "a gimmick", Harrison was full of praise for Nintendogs as a game that's pushing the boundaries: "I briefly played Nintendogs at E3 and I think it's absolutely fantastic.

"I'm very admiring of what Nintendo have done with that game... I would love for us to go and create that kind of immersion for a game on the PSP."

Harrison went on to say that while innovation is important, financial considerations still have to be taken into account. "We are a business, we do have to make a profit. We can't just do this for the fun of it - we're not art house theatre. We have to balance the two."

Harrison then turned to the PlayStation Portable, which finally launches in Europe at midnight tonight after a series of slips.

"Obviously we didn't plan it that way, factors outside of our control contributed to us having to delay the launch.

"Although the benefit to European consumers is that the machine we launch tomorrow has got a Version 2 operating system on it, there are more games, more movies, and the production output for our factories in Japan will be able to sustain demand in the US and Europe," Harrison said.

We're also promised more downloadable PSP content in the future - but we're going to have to pay for it, apparently.

"We will be building some premium content next year and we will be charging for download," he confirmed, adding that this will be sold on a pay-per-download basis - so once you've handed over your cash you own the right to download it again, should you accidentally erase it from your Memory Stick or some such.

Harrison then took the opportunity to hit back at those who have criticised the PSP launch line-up, telling the audience: "Don't judge the life of the format on the first games that come out for it - remember we launched PS2 with Fantavision. Although it's a lovely piece of software, it's by no means the software that will define the format.

"I think it's natural that when a format first comes out, the games that you make are the games that you know how to make, because you only have a limited amount of time to make them," Harrison continued.

"Then the next games to come out on the platform are where the innovation starts to happen.

"We're doing some things internally and I know a lot of people externally are too. We're really starting to see that innovation coming through on PSP, and it will certainly come through on PS3."

And as for Harrison's favourite PSP game of the moment? "I've nearly finished Ridge Racer but the Max Tour's got me. That's probably the one I've played the most intensively."

Harrison went on to suggest that games should become "more like soap operas", with developers delivering "similar, reliable experiences in a friendly way to a set of characters and stories that change dynamically over time."

This is designed to generate a "water cooler experience" in the same way the TV series Lost has (Harrison mentioned Lost several times during his speech, suggesting he is a big fan. And aren't we all).

"Some game designers are starting to think about this, and I think over the next five years it'll become more common," Harrison predicted.

Unsurprisingly, he declined to comment on a possible price point for the PS3, telling the audience: "It would be foolish of me to make any comments about pricing at this early stage."

"I'm sure Ken will continue to be enigmatic about that."

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Ellie Gibson

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Ellie spent nearly a decade working at Eurogamer, specialising in hard-hitting executive interviews and nob jokes. These days she does a comedy show and podcast. She pops back now and again to write the odd article and steal our biscuits.

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