The new PS3 which will be launched on March the 23rd includes a Blu Ray player which right now in the Australian market is worth at least $650 to $800 in its own right. But what do you get?

At the recent CES Expo in Las Vegas Sony President Stan Glasgow said that early research among US buyers of the PS3 revealed that many saw the inclusion of a Blu Ray player in the PS3 as being a reason to pay the high price that Sony is demanding for the new games console which also comes with the new 1.5 firmware upgrade. Sony Entertainment in Australia have also revealed that the new models may even have the new 1.6 firmware upgrade due in late March. 

Glasgow also said that Sony Entertainment had already sold morew than 1 million units into the US market and that all scheduled production including the million units allocated to Austalia and Europe would be sold as soon as they went on sale.

One of the bigger controversies surrounding the PS3 is whether or not the inclusion of the Blu-ray drive was a good idea. The upside? You get a ton more storage than a DVD and, if you’re Sony, you also get your format into many homes using a gaming system as a Trojan horse.

Blu-Ray movies require a 1.5x Blu-Ray drive, or 54Mbits/second. Sony announced that PS3 uses a 2x BD drive, which is 72Mbits/second or 9MB/second. The Xbox 360 uses a 12x DVD, which should give it about 16MB/second. That is significantly faster for games and will result in shorter load times. And that 12x DVD drive should be a whole lot cheaper. (Note that the PS3 drive will do 8x DVD, and even that is faster than 2x BD.)

One of the ways around this slow loading time is to enable a one-time install of many of the game’s assets onto the hard drive of the PS3. In the case of Genji it decreases load times from 12 seconds to 4 seconds, which is a significant improvement. However, if you buy and play a lot of games, that may lead to some troublesome data management, as even 60GB drives may seem small after installing a few dozen games. Who wants to install their console games anyway? Isn’t this one of the reasons we’re not gaming on a computer?

There is another way around this, if you’re a developer: use the extra space of the Blu-ray disc and make your data redundant. Put important game data on multiple places on the game disc, and that way you decrease the amount of space the laser needs to travel to load the data you use often.

According to this month’s Electronic Gaming Monthly, this is how Oblivion is going to get around the slow-loading issue with its PS3 release. Said Bethesda’s Todd Howard, “Drive speed matters more to me [than total capacity], and Blu-ray is slower.”

Of course, if you use data redundancy to boost speeds the way Bethesda is, you may very well eat up the extra space of that Blu-ray disc without being able to fit any more information on the disc than you would have put on a standard DVD-9. The advantage of the media is compromised, and all that remains is a higher price.
So there you go: you can either install game assets on the hard drive or place redundant game data around the disc. The problem with both of these solutions is that one of the advantages of Blu-ray become less compelling. Why bother with a large Blu-ray disc when you’re putting that data on the hard drive before you play anyway? You could have simply put that extra information on a DVD and then moved it onto the hard drive. The same can be said about the redundancy approach: why not just use a standard DVD and have it load quickly in the first place instead of doubling or tripling up your data on a slower but larger disc?

The Blu-ray drive is useful for movies, of course, but for gaming, Blu-ray doesn’t look like it’s the best choice until faster drives are released. There is every possibility of a future PS3 revision with a faster Blu-ray drive, but that won’t help current PS3 owners. Blu-ray may be the future for storage that’s both large and fast, but right now it seems shoe-horned into gaming applications. It seems like developers may actually do better by shipping some of their PS3 games on DVDs. Games will load faster and manufacturers will save money on the discs. Would Sony allow it?


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