There were rumours about Sony redesigning its hardware in the run-up to E3, and they proved to be true. The PSP without a UMD drive emerged, but the slimline PS3 (not PSThree, that would be too hideous for words) did not. Will it make a real difference?
There’s no doubt that upgrading and improving a product is a good idea. The question is how quickly you do it. Apple got the consumers hook, line and sinker with the iPod range. The original was a fantastic piece of design and genuinely a step forward for music players. But the Shuffle has little or no appeal for me, and as much as I would like a touch-screen music player that also plays games, the price tag remains high. Not to mention the lingering concerns about battery life, reliability, repair and my general apathy towards paying for downloaded music.
But what about gaming machines? Nintendo’s DS is now on its third iteration, attempting to catch the consumer’s eye with its new “DSi”. I for improved, or just I for “I think that white shiny thing is rather nice, what does it do?” The cameras are low-powered and limited so far in what they can do, the software line-up has not been overwhelming (particularly one game I would consider getting, the latest Wario Ware) and there have been complaints about the download store. The Lite was a step forward from the original, but the DSi still has a lot to prove.
Sony had its own trials and tribulations with upgrading. The original Playstation went through several hardware revisions before becoming the PSOne. This was a nice idea, making it portable with the option of a small LCD screen. But the revision of the PS2 to become a slimline model seemed almost pointless – until you realise that it has given the machine an extended shelf life. It almost looks like a new machine, and consumers (especially in America, it seems) are still buying it. Why not, with cheap games abundant?
But it’s going to make more than a redesign of the hardware (or rumours of another price cut) to perk up the PS3. It’s the games we want to play on it that need improving. The PSP’s struggles – the UMD format, the analogue sticks – will not be fixed by this makeover, and baffling decisions (such as the lack of online play for the recent Monster Hunter release) continue to drag the format down. Even the prospect of Rock Band and Little Big Planet may not be enough.
Oh, and Microsoft, don’t worry about redesigning the Zune. I still won’t buy one.