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Sony Computer Entertainment Japan said this week that it had stopped shipping versions of its PlayStation 3 game console with hardware backwards compatibility to Japan. As a result of the decision, Japanese buyers will have to own PlayStation 2 game console to play previously released games, whereas PlayStation 3 will only play newly-developed high-definition titles.

From now on the only available new-generation game system from Sony Computer Entertainment in its domestic market will be the PlayStation 3 40GB, which is not compatible with games developed for PlayStation and PlayStation 2. Previously available PlayStation 3 20GB and 60GB models featured built-in PlayStation 2 hardware inside, providing absolute backwards compatibility and allowing end-users to seamlessly transit from PS2 to PS3. Sony’s PlayStation 3 60GB in Europe and PlayStation 3 80GB in the USA relied on software emulation to enable backwards compatibility with PS2 and for some reason Sony decided not to make them available in Japan.

Sony Computer Entertainment claims that cutting-down backwards compatibility with PlayStation 2 is not something completely negative, as growing library of games developed for the advanced new-generation game system should substitute the lack of previous titles. While this may be correct for so-called hardcore gamers, which play a great variety of games, casual customers who currently own a PlayStation 2 have no reason to transit to the new-gen console due to the lack of casual games for PS3. As a result, they may migrate to Nintendo Wii, which features unique motion sensitive controller as well as a relatively rich library of simplistic games.

Sony PlayStation 3 console is based on the Cell processor developed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba, the RSX graphics chip by Nvidia Corp., wireless network and Bluetooth connectivity and is equipped with Blu-ray optical disk drive. There are several versions of the consoles available around the world with 60GB or 80GB hard disk drives and variable compatibility with PlayStation 1/2 games as well as 40GB version that cannot play old games at all. The official prices of Sony PlayStation 3 40GB and 80GB in the USA are $399 and $499, respectively, European customers have to pay €399 ($590) and €499 ($738) for 40GB and 60GB models, respectively, whereas Japanese gamers can obtain PlayStation 3 40GB for ¥39 980 ($367 or €248).

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