Are 20GB PlayStation 3s Becoming Extinct?

Sony’s belief that the PlayStation 3 is still hard to find may not be completely baseless. While gamers are reporting sightings of 60GB PS3’s on store shelves, the 20GB variant seems to be harder to find. They’re certainly not being shipped off to Europe for the March 23 launch, as territories outside of Japan and North American don’t appear to be even getting a choice to purchase the cheaper console.

Is Sony quietly phasing out the 20GB model? Sony says no, saying that retailers simply aren’t ordering them. “The type of model found in stores is completely up to what the retailer orders, so if they don’t see a big demand for a particular SKU, they simply don’t order it from us,” explained Sony Computer Entertainment America PR head David Karraker to Next-Gen. “We continue to manufacture both.”

Karraker adds, “At this time there are no plans to change our US model offerings,” that Sony is maintaining its 80 percent 60GB and 20 percent 20GB split.

The 60GB PS3 was forecasted to be and still is the more desirable version. Personally, the $100 difference was well worth it for the extra 40GB, Wi-Fi and my still unused memory card reader on my PS3. For others though, especially if price is still a point of contention, that $100 represents money that could be put into a game and/or second controller.

Honestly though, hardcore gamers should just shell out the extra coin for the bigger hard drive alone. We’re all aware of how small the Xbox 360 hard drive looks after downloading a high-def movie and a couple demos, so getting a PS3 with a hard drive with more storage space than what’s available on the Xbox 360 seems to only make sense.

The group who likely misses the 20GB console the most are non-gamers, specifically home theater enthusiasts. I’m talking about those people who are buying a PS3 for its Blu-ray capabilities alone. As a movie player, the 20GB gives up nothing when compared to the 60GB. Things may be different if Sony didn’t decide to include HDMI on the lesser PS3, but as it is now, the 20GB system represents a stunning value those looking for a Blu-ray Disc player.

Considering that Sony loses more money on every 20GB machine sold than on the 60GB, there’s incentive there on the business side to quietly phase out the 20GB, regardless of what the PR folk are saying. Sony is already subsidizing gamers with the PS3, and I can’t imagine the company wanting to subsidize the Blu-ray movie market as well. Sony has recently announced a cheaper (but probably not quite cheap enough) alternative for movie watchers.

Personally, I am not at all opposed to seeing the 20GB go the way of the do-do. I am, however, opposed to the extinction of the Emotion Engine and Graphics Synthesizer chip… but that’s for another editorial.

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