Sony will delay the release of its new PlayStation 3 video game console until early November, the president of its game unit said on Wednesday.
Ken Kutaragi, the president of Sony Computer Entertainment, the company's game division, made the announcement at the firm's annual PlayStation business briefing to software licencees.
It will launch the new consoles simultaneously in the United States, Japan and Europe, the company said. In addition, Kutaragi said that the PS3 will ship with a 60 GB hard drive included with the system and it will be backwards compatible with PS2 and PS1 games, playing them at higher resolutions than on the original hardware. Last but certainly not least, the PS3 will feature the next version of the generation HDMI digital interface, which could mean HDMI with 5.1 sound support.
No details on pricing were given at the conference.
Japanese newspapers reported earlier that the company would delay the launch of the PS3 because consumer electronics makers and movie companies were unable to reach an agreement on the development of the copy protection technology for the Blu-ray Disc drive, which is used in the console.
"A delayed PS3 launch would provide needed room for Microsoft to consolidate its early lead in fifth generation game consoles," Merrill Lynch analyst Joe Osha wrote in a report last month.
"This would be particularly true if Sony does not launch in North America and Europe until late 2006 or spring 2007, giving Microsoft a key second holiday season to sell game consoles and software," he added.
When Microsoft brought the first Xbox game console here in 2002 it was nearly two years behind Sony's PlayStation 2 and it has trailed ever since. The Xbox division has never made an annual profit.
This time Microsoft made sure it had a jump on its arch-rival by putting the Xbox 360 on the shelves in the United States in November and the following month in Sony's home market.
Even so, Japan's notoriously finicky video game players appear unconvinced by the latest Xbox, the first version of which failed to win over many Japanese consumers in part due to a lack of games that appealed to local tastes.
The new Xbox 360 has had more success in the United States, selling out within hours at some outlets and online retailers, although sceptics said this was partly because Microsoft had restricted sales to win favourable publicity.
Sony also faces a challenge from Nintendo, which aims to start selling its next-generation video game console, named Revolution, later this year.
Ken Kutaragi also unveiled Sony's plans to release a series of add-ons for the popular PSP portable game console. The company will offer a version of the PS2's popular EyeToy product. Also on offer is a PlayStation 1 emulator for the PSP. Sony will offer PS1 games for download on the PSP at a low price. The titles will not contain large amounts of full-motion video, so that they can be stored in the PSP's Memory Stick.
The PSP is scheduled for a firmware update this spring, with plans for a videophone and VoIP capability, as well as a Global Positioning System (GPS) add-on module. In addition, the next version of the PSP web browser will feature Flash support.
Following Kutaragi's comments, Sony Computer Entertainment America today announced that it will release a new PSP hardware package available for a suggested retail price of $199.99.
Consumers will be able to purchase the new PSP system at this price, complete with AC adaptor and battery, beginning March 22nd.
A new lineup of PSP games will be released over the next few months by first and third party developers and publishers around the world titles such as Daxter, Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Essentials, Monster Hunter: Freedom, Me and My Katamari and more.