The original 2006 launch date of the PS3 has always seemed peculiar when you consider the Xbox 360 released almost a full year earlier in November 2005, but that year delay was not always the intention. Apparently, PS3 production was slowed due to a manufacturing issue with the laser diode on the Blu-ray drive, a component that only costs $0.05. The delay in production gave Microsoft the upper hand at first, allowing it to launch with a year head start.
This news comes courtesy of IGN following an interview with former PlayStation executive Phil Harrison, who now serves as Google’s VP. The publication discussed the PS3’s launch schedule and when the topic of the year-long delay was brought up, Harrison had this to say:
The thing that actually slowed down production on the hardware was down to a tiny component. It was the laser diode on the Blu-ray drive. It was like a $0.05 component.
In this particular case, the shift from red laser to blue laser was actually quite a sophisticated change in the way that the optical head on a drive worked, and it was a little bit of physics and a little bit of chemistry mixed together, because it’s really a crystal that you’re making. And they just couldn’t make enough.
Because of this, Harrison referred to the PS3’s release as “later than I think we would have wished for.” While there were certainly other problems with the system at launch—mainly its $600 price—the system might have had a better start if it released earlier, closer to that of the Xbox 360.
Despite its slow start, the PS3 did manage to reach a whopping 87 million units sold as of March 2017. It eventually went on to outsell the Xbox 360, which currently sits at around 84 million units sold. In fact, aside from the PS Vita, every PlayStation console has sold at least 80 million units, including the beloved PSP handheld.
With the launch of the PS5 set for holiday 2020, we’ve got around a year before its release. In that time, it will be important for Sony to get the manufacturing right to avoid similar delays seen in the past. Who knows? Maybe the PS5 will continue the trend set by the PS4 and reach another impressive milestone in terms of sales. Let’s just hope a small component doesn’t push its release date back an entire year.