The PlayStation 3 is getting another price drop.
Last week, Sony announced a 40-gigabyte model that will sell for $399 and come bundled with the new "Spider-Man 3" Blu-Ray disc.
The 80-gigabyte model is dropping $100, to $499.
Sony needs to do something to kick-start sales of the PS3, which struggled in September. According to the NPD Group, which tracks the videogame industry, Sony sold only 119,000 PS3s last month.
By comparison: Bolstered by the excellent "Halo 3," Microsoft sold 528,000 Xbox 360s last month, up 50 percent from August. The Xbox unit got more affordable recently; it's now $349.99 for the regular 360 unit and $449.99 for the Elite model.
And Nintendo moved 501,000 Wii units, which run out of stores for about $250.
Overall, I think Sony is making a smart move with its new pricing model.
Although I'm often branded a "Sony fanboy" by some posters at my blog (http://langstonwertz.blogspot.com), I truly believe the PS3 is the best of the newest consoles. Sure, Sony needs to improve its online service, which cannot touch Xbox Live. But it is the most powerful of the current consoles and provides the most eye-popping graphics, which help games seem even more realistic.
Sony plans to release a rumble-enabled controller in the U.S. early next year, which is smart, and there's potential in the Wii-mote-like motion-sensor feature that hasn't been tapped yet.
One caveat? While the 80GB version will have backwards-compatibility with PS2 games, the cheaper PS3 model will not. I'm sure Sony is counting on one of either two things: 1) Most people who will have interest in a new PS3 already have a PS2 to play those old games on; or 2) they are new Sony PlayStation customers who don't have any PS2 titles.
The cheaper PS3 will, however, maintain the Blu-Ray player, the built-in hard drive, integrated Wi-Fi, an Internet browser and Sony's Cell Broadband Engine.
(By the way, the Blu-Ray player on the machines is as good as any high-definition DVD player you can find, and could make the unit appealing to members of your family who don't game. Watching Blu-Ray -- or HD-DVD on so-equipped 360s -- is a totally different experience from watching standard DVDs. The movies almost appear in 3D, with eye-popping color and better sound.)
So whereas the original PS3 seemed to be making consumers pay a premium for bells and whistles like Blu-Ray, the new lower price gives the distinct feel that consumers are getting some great features as a bonus.
Finally, Sony appears poised going into this holiday season and next year to make up some ground in the number of titles available, which has been disappointing.
Jack Tretton, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, said the company's big upcoming games include "Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction," "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" and "Assassin's Creed."
It looks like Sony is finally trying to get it right.