Sony to Go Global With PS3 in March

Gamers in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Australasia have two months to save their money for a PlayStation 3 as Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) plans to launch the new console in those regions on March 23.

While consumers might still be upset about the debt they accumulated during the holidays, Sony seems confident they’ll be ready to spend more by the time PS3 ships to their favorite retailers. It’s safe to assume die-hard gamers, especially PlayStation 2 lovers, will flock to the stores, but the buying frenzy may be short-lived.

Supply and Demand

“The gaming enthusiasts everywhere are going to just go out and grab those machines,” Michael Cai, director of broadband and gaming for Parks Associates, told TechNewsWorld. That’s what happened when Sony released the new console in November in North America, Japan and other parts of the world that use the NTSC (National Television System Committee) color television standard.

The company planned on a similarly-timed PS3 release in the PAL (phase alternating line)-standard regions, but that was prevented by supply problems involving the units’ Blu-ray high-definition video parts.

“What happened in the U.S. was that, initially the supply was drained really fast,” Cai noted. “But after one week, it seemed the demand wasn’t that much anymore and we started seeing PS3s everywhere, even on the Home Shopping Network Web site, which is not very usual for a new gaming console.”

PS3 sales among the less avid might be impacted by consumer sticker shock, according to Cai. “With its price tag, you have to ask whether, after the enthusiasts — the ones who waited in line to get their machines — do you have that many people who can afford one?”

High Prices

Already there is some grumbling about the fact that the PAL-compliant consoles will cost more than their NTSC cousins. The 60 gigabyte version of the system — the only one being released in March — sells for US$599. Sony will charge 599 euros ($776), Pounds 425 ($837), AU$999.95 (US$777) or NZ$1,199.95 (US$839) for the PAL-ready units.

The price difference won’t matter too much, P.J. McNealy, a senior analyst at American Technology Research, told TechNewsWorld. However, he did suggest Sony is overdoing it a bit when it called the November launch a blockbuster success.

“The fact is, it’s in-stock in the U.S. … and there seems to be lackluster sales six weeks out,” said McNealy, who raised an eyebrow over Sony’s “over-the-top language” in press releases describing the “massive success” of the NTSC region launch.

That language can be found in statements attributed by Sony to SCEE President David Reeves: “Following the hugely successful launches of PS3 in Japan and North America, we are absolutely delighted to be able to bring significant numbers of PS3 to the SCEE territories,” said the statement. “To be able to launch with over 30 titles across every genre shows that this is our strongest launch line-up in the history of PlayStation, and is what PlayStation fans in Europe have been crying out for.”

Enhanced Entertainment

SCEE said it will initially make one million units available in the PAL regions. It said it decided to release, for now, only the 60 GB model as a response to “retail and consumer demand,” and will wait to see if there is demand for the less-expensive 20 GB units.

Sony also said March 23 will be the date it will launch a new “system update to further enhance the entertainment potential” of the PS3, but it didn’t elaborate.

McNealy and Cai concur the PS3 raises the bar for game console technology, and its impact on that sector will only be known several years from now. Compared to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s Wii, “the PS3 is definitely the most technologically-advanced,” Cai claimed. “With the horsepower it has, even the game developers haven’t figured out how to use it.”

Sony might want to further stress the box is actually a good deal when one considers a standalone Sony Blu-ray disc player is selling for $900, McNealy stated. “Sony is not getting any help from the Blu-ray camp in explaining the value proposition,” he added. “Part of the appeal of PS2 was that it was a cheap DVD player.”

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