PS3, Backwards Compatibility Gimped For PAL Territories

February 23, 2007

And the bad press surrounding the PlayStation 3 continues to pile up. With the console’s launch just weeks away from it’s March 23 debut in PAL territories, including Europe, Middle East, Africa and Australasia, Sony has issued word that the region’s version of console will be significantly altered from what was released in North America and Japan.

Specifically, a Sony press release notes that the PAL PlayStation 3 will feature “a new combination of hardware and software emulation” that will allow for compatibility with “a broad range” of original PlayStation releases, but only “a limited range” of games for the PlayStation 2.

Really? Four months of waiting, and the hardware actually got worse? North American and Japanese PlayStation 3 owners have the ability to play nearly all games from past Sony consoles, 98 percent we’re told, and while an official list has not yet been released, Sony’s choice of words cannot strike much confidence in those who have been patiently waiting for the system’s delayed release.

Sony did reveal that some PS2 titles will be made usable by the console through “regular downloadable firmware updates,” so honestly I suppose the degree to which this news inspires the ire of PAL consumers will depend strongly on just how regular is regular.

Other notes from Sony on the console include information that “all storage media types is not guaranteed”, perhaps referring to a degree of incompatability with certain memory cards. The PAL PlayStation 3 will also not support output from the DTS-HD 7.1 channel, as this audio will instead be piped through a 5.1 or lower channel. Finally, Sony indicates that a device compatible with Linear PCM 7.1 Ch will be required to output 7.1 ch audio, supported by Dolby TrueHD or a similar format, from the HDMI OUT connector.

“PS3 is first and foremost a system that excels in playing games specifically designed to exploit the power and potential of the PS3 system,” commented SCEE president David Reeves. “Games designed for PS3 offer incredible graphics quality, stunning gameplay and massively improved audio and video fidelity that is simply not achievable with PS and PS2 games. Rather than concentrate on PS2 backwards compatibility, in the future, company resources will be increasingly focused on developing new games and entertainment features exclusively for PS3, truly taking advantage of this exciting technology.”