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State of Play: PlayStation 3

This Christmas was supposed to be a Royal Rumble between the games industry's heavyweights: Xbox 360 vs Wii vs PS3. But the PS3 picked up an injury -- so what are we missing?

It was supposed to be a classic all-in brawl, a three-way Royal Rumble between the biggest names in videogames. The Xbox 360, the Nintendo Wii, the Sony PlayStation 3: a Christmas duel to the death was on the cards.

But then the PS3 picked up an injury. Boo! Hiss! Unable to get its hands on enough of the mysterious blue laser diodes that make its Blu-ray player tick, Sony had to drastically downscale production of the PS3 and postpone its release in Europe and Australia -- ever the unloved runts of the global videogame litter -- until March next year.

So what are we missing out on? Well, as you can see in our recent video from the Best of Stuff show, titles such as Motor Storm offer an unprecedented level of graphical detail. The PS3 uses the new Cell chip, a Power processing core surrounded by seven 'helper' chips. There have been rumours that this makes the PS3 much more difficult to program for than any other console, but its graphical output is not in doubt. It produces images in the high-definition 1080p format, which offers extraordinary clarity -- although compatible TVs will set you back the thick end of £3,000.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room: price. The PS3 will come in two versions -- one with a 20GB hard drive, the other with a 60GB hard drive and a few other bells and whistles, such as built-in Wi-Fi. The low-end version will be around £350 at launch -- £70 more than the top-end Xbox 360. The 60GB version will be a breathtaking £425, more than the Xbox 360 and its HD DVD player put together.

Now, there are many people for whom this expense will be a badge of honour, and indeed all pre-orders that have been made available in the US and Japan have sold out. But when production picks up and the PS3 is still much more expensive than its rivals next Christmas, will it be as popular? Does it offer enough? We'll have to see the quality of games that appear, but we seriously doubt it. Considering only 10 per cent of UK households have hi-def TVs, we don't believe the Blu-ray player will convince many.

Stay tuned for more State of Play on the consoles you can buy this Christmas. -NH

Update: a full review of the Sony PlayStation 3 is now live.