80 GB PlayStation 3 Could Land in South Korea

Speculation surrounding a new Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) model sporting an 80 GB hard disk drive has gone into overdrive once again after the company’s South Korean unit announced the arrival of the newest addition to the console line on its Web site. The system, according to Sony Korea, will become available on June 16 and cost 518,000 South Korean won (US$557).

Confirmation of such an offering would have to come from the South Korean division, Kimberly Otzman, a spokesperson for the U.S. arm of Sony Entertainment told TechNewsWorld. “I can tell you that Sony has not made an announcement [about the 80 GB PS3],” she added.

Truth or Rumor?

Rumors concerning a bump up for the PS3’s hard disk began circulating around the end of March. Gaming blog Kotaku discovered and published a March request Sony had submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a “Class II permissive change” to the commission’s original September 2006 approval for the PS3.

The document lists several alterations, including one to the console’s Bluetooth module with the addition of “the Reverse F antenna.” The request states that, “The model: CECHE01 is to be added by the difference of the capacity hard disk drive … CECHE01 (Addition Model): 80 GB Hard Disk.”

Adding fuel to the conjecture, a Sony spokesperson, Satoshi Fukuoka, was quoted in news reports from Reuters and Bloomberg News as having confirmed the reports.

However, in an interview with gaming site Eurogamer on March 29, a company spokesperson said the company would not comment on an 80 GM model.

The Lucky Few

Should Sony offer an 80 GB PlayStation 3 solely in South Korea, why the cold shoulder for the rest of the world’s PS3 markets, especially Europe, and presumably, North America? It has to do with the assumptions about broadband and how broadband has become a critical content distribution channel for South Koreans, Mike Goodman, an analyst at Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld.

“If you’re going to use broadband as a channel for content distribution [of] movies, music [and] games, you’re going to need a bigger hard drive because the amount of storage you have becomes a limiting factor on the amount of content you can consume,” Goodman explained. “And South Korea is probably the No. 1 country for the consumption of broadband-delivered content — movies, music and games — on a per capita basis.”

Other countries may have larger populations, Goodman said, but in terms of per capita consumption, he places them “right up there.”

Two factors have led to South Korea’s broadband content feeding frenzy, according to Goodman. It is partly due to a newer infrastructure, but it is significantly due to a government-sponsored initiative in both mobile and wired line broadband.

“They’re a fixture in Korean life because the government made it a fixture to do so,” Goodman pointed out. “It would be unfair to take a comparison and say the U.S. government should do that too, because it is a much more complicated issue and you’d probably bankrupt the federal government if you tried to wire the entire country as a federal initiative.”

Cost Analysis

South Korea is also growing in importance to Sony in terms of per-capita console penetration. “You have multiple trends,” said Goodman. “As a region, it is growing in importance and it is also broadband crazy, so it is consuming a lot of entertainment. So, here’s an opportunity to take a device that is customized more so for that country [and launch it there].”

Other countries will not see an 80 GB PS3 trial, if in fact this is a trial, Goodman stated, because right now Sony is really looking at the cost the PS3 has had on the company. Going from a 20 GB or 60 GB hard drive to an 80 GB drive is an incremental step, but it will cost more than the other two options.

“Why not roll it out elsewhere? Cost,” stated Goodman. “Sony right now has to take a hard look at cost. If other markets are not at the point where they are taking advantage of a 60 gig hard drive, there’s no reason to provide an 80 gig.”

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