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Monday, November 13, 2006
PlayStation 3 Flies Off Shelves in Boost to Ailing Sony


The PlayStation 3 was a sell-out as Sony finally launched the hugely anticipated and delayed new console to long lines across the capital in a much-needed boost to its faltering fortunes.

From boys in baggy pants to teenage girls, suited salarymen and even some grey-haired seniors, thousands of bleary eyed game fans braved the cold Tokyo night in the hope of getting their hands on one of the prized new machines.

With only 100,000 PS3s available on day one in Japan due to production problems with the high-definition DVD player, many people were disappointed.

"The father of the PlayStation," Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi, made a cameo appearance to greet the patient fans.

"I'm really happy to see so many users waiting," he said at the towering Bic Camera store in Yurakucho.

Sony has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into PlayStation 3 and its success is considered vital to the iconic company's future following a series of setbacks, including recalls of millions of faulty computer batteries.

"There's lot riding on it for Sony right now," said Standard and Poor's equity analyst John Yang.

"If the PS3 fails, I think markets are going to start questioning Sony's credibility in the next few years," he added.

The sell-out launch in Japan will provide some much-needed cheer for Sony investors but analysts say the electronics giant still faces a bumpy path to profitability in its games division amid fierce competition from rivals.

Not that it mattered for the thousands more would-be buyers who were turned away empty handed even before stores opened, as clerks with loud hailers and uniformed police shepherded people into long snaking queues.

Sony was forced to delay the global launch of the PS3 by about six months due to problems with the high-definition DVD player, giving rival Microsoft a one-year head start with its Xbox 360 machine.

The Japanese company pushed back the rollout again until March 2007 in Europe as it grappled with production problems.

Sony expects its game division to make a loss of about 200 billion yen (1.7 billion dollars) this fiscal year after it cut the price of the PS3 in Japan by one-fifth over complaints it was too expensive.

Even so, at 49,980 yen for the standard 20-gigabyte hard disc, the PS3 is approaching twice the price of Microsoft's cheapest Xbox 360 at 29,800 yen, and Nintendo's Wii, which launches in December at 25,000 yen.

Despite the delay, Sony has maintained its forecast to ship six million PS3s worldwide by March 2007 -- a target some analysts fear will be hard to hit.


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