Sony shrinks PS2 chip for cheaper consoles

Smaller, more efficient console processor will let Sony step up manufacture of the gaming console while cutting its costs

Sony Computer Entertainment says it has combined two of the processor components of its PlayStation2 on a single die, which should significantly reduce the cost of manufacturing the market-leading video game console.

The company has combined the Emotion Engine and Graphics Synthesiser chips into a single unit using a 0.13-micron manufacturing process, said Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi in Japanese trade publication Nikkei Microdevices. The original PlayStation2 chips were designed to be manufactured on a 0.18-0.15 micron process. Shrinking the design rule and combining the processors into one unit will not directly affect the console's performance, but smaller processors consume less power and are less costly to manufacture.

Kutaragi did not indicate when the new chips would appear in consoles.

Sony is widely expected to cut prices on the PlayStation2 console some time this year, possibly at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in May, as competition heats up from Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's GameCube. Nintendo, which sells its GameCube in the US for $199.95, recently said it could cut the price of its unit depending on how deep Sony's price cut is. The PlayStation2 sells for $299 in the US, but the price could drop to as low as $199, Nintendo indicated. The Xbox also sells for $299 in the US.

PlayStation2 has already been steeply discounted from its original £299 launch price. In the UK, the PlayStation2 already undercuts the Xbox by £100, selling for £199 compared to the recently released Xbox's £299. Nintendo's GameCube, due to arrive on 3 May, will undercut both with a £150 price tag, which Nintendo hopes will give the console a strong European start.

Sony's console has emerged as the clear market leader over its newer and more technically powerful rivals, selling 4.05 million units in the buisness year to 31 March, according to game magazine publisher Enterbrain. The unit sold 980,000 units in the first three days of its Japanese launch in March 2000.

The Xbox had a disappointing Japanese launch, shifting 190,092 units between 22 February and 31 March, according to Enterbrain. However, the console sold 1.5 million units in the first six weeks of its US launch.

Nintendo's GameCube, which aims at a wide variety of age groups, sold 1.29 million units from its 14 September Japan debut up to 31 March.

GameSpot.com's Yukiyoshi Ike Sato contributed to this report.


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