October 16, 2009, 6:13 AM — The Sony Playstation 3 has long been the underdog in this generation of the console war, for the most part due to price. The system was just too expensive for most consumers. The introduction of the recent "PS3 Slim" at $299 seems to have sparked a change in the public's attitude towards the system (and great exclusives like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves don't hurt) and anecdotal evidence indicates that sales have been up (when NPD releases its numbers next week we'll know for sure). As an added bonus, having a single SKU makes things easy on gift-givers and newcomers to gaming. With one SKU there's no longer any possibility for confusion over which model to buy.
All of which makes Sony's announcement of a new 250 GB PS3 very puzzling. Once again, Sony has the most expensive stand-alone console on the market. Once again, Sony has two SKUs, confusing some segment of the buying public. The $349 price of the 250 GB PS3 seems OK but not great. Users with a modicum of tech knowledge could buy a $299 120 GB PS3 and swap in a 250 GB 2.5" hard drive for about the same price (and have a left over 120 GB drive as a bonus), but for a lot of people that might be a daunting proposition, even though Sony does support end-user drive upgrades.
So it isn't that the new model is really flawed in any way; I just don't see the point of it. Microsoft now has a 250 GB Xbox 360 Elite coming out in various location-specific bundles for $400 (these bundles include the console, a game, and a pair of controllers) so perhaps Sony felt like they needed to offer a console with the same amount of hard drive space to stay competitive? The official line is that folks need more space to store games, video, music, etc., but honestly I don't see the need for that much space on a console for the typical user, and hard core users can easily swap in a larger drive if they feel the need for one. It will be interesting to see sales numbers of 120 GB vs 250 GB PS3s (if that breakdown is available).
As long as we're talking PS3, gaming blog Kotaku says that cross-game voice chat is coming in the next firmware update. This rumor is based on a Naughty Dog developer mentioning it in a forum post, which was subsequently removed. (Naughty Dog is the Sony-owned developer who does the Uncharted games for the PS3, so it would make sense that they'd have early knowledge of upcoming firmware.) Cross-game chat, as the name implies, would let you talk to friends while you're playing different games.