The least expensive way to currently buy into the Blu-ray format is soon to say Sayonara, with Sony announcing plans to discontinue production of the 20GB PlayStation 3 to focus on selling its higher-capacity 60GB cousin.
Though the 20GB model retails for $499 -- approximately $100 less than the 60GB PS3 -- Sony says early adopters have favored the pricier version by a ratio of nearly 9 to 1.
"Initial retail demand in North America was upwards of 90% in favor of the 60GB SKU, so we manufactured and shipped-in accordingly," Sony spokesman Dave Karraker told Video Business. "Based on retailer and customer feedback, we have decided to focus our current efforts on the more popular 60GB model."
In addition to its larger internal hard drive, the 60GB PS3 boasts extra storage media slots, as well as a built-in wi-fi port not found in the 20GB console. While retailers will be allowed to sell-through any remaining stock of the 20GB model, the company said no new orders will be fulfilled.
On the surface, Sony's move may seem a bit surprising, at least in light of continued criticism that Blu-ray hardware prices are too high for the average consumer. When the PS3 launched in late November, the $499 unit became the cheapest way for buyers to experience the Blu-ray format -- with this move, that entry point is now $100 higher.
What, if any, long-term affect Sony's decision to discontinue the 20GB PlayStation 3 may have on the next-gen format war remains to be seen. But for now, retailers don't seem terribly worried.
"In consumers' minds, there is no real gap between the $499 and the $599," said Jayme Kruse-Cordie, Hastings director of video and interactive gaming. "After $499, the price sensitivity is gone."