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Sony’s Debut of PlayStation Vita Player in U.S., Europe to Miss Christmas

Sony Corp. (6758) plans to begin sales of the PlayStation Vita portable player in the U.S. and Europe next year, missing the key Christmas-holiday shopping season.

The product will initially launch in Japan before the end of December, followed by introductions in the U.S. and Europe early next year, Kazuo Hirai, Chairman Howard Stringer’s top lieutenant, told reporters in Tokyo today. The company had previously said it planned a phased global rollout of the Vita from the end of this year, without providing specifics.

The plan means Tokyo-based Sony will miss out on Christmas shoppers in two markets where the company generated more than 40 percent of its revenue last fiscal year. Japan’s largest electronics exporter is increasingly relying on its games business as the main Bravia television operations face their eighth straight year of losses.

“The PlayStation business is a key pillar,” Hirai said. “The video-game industry is evolving constantly. My expectation is for the PlayStation business to remain at the forefront of this very dynamic industry.”

Sony also needs to be more aggressive in reducing costs, Hirai said. The company said this week it’s preparing to overhaul the unprofitable TV business -- plans that may include partnerships and the reorganization of its procurement and product development operations -- to reduce costs and become more competitive.

Photographer: Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. via Bloomberg

The Sony PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) is shown June 7, 2011. Close

The Sony PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) is shown June 7, 2011.

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Photographer: Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. via Bloomberg

The Sony PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) is shown June 7, 2011.

The company is also facing mounting pressure after its larger games-industry rival, Nintendo Co., said last week it will slash prices of its latest 3-D handheld player by as much as 40 percent starting mid-August.

No Price Cuts

Hirai said today Sony doesn’t need to lower Vita’s price and follow competitors.

Both Sony and Nintendo are also facing increasing competition from Cupertino, California-based Apple Inc. (AAPL), whose iPhones and iPads are gaining popularity as gaming devices, as well as from games such as Zynga Inc.’s “FarmVille” on Facebook Inc.’s social-networking site.

The Vita, equipped with a 5-inch display and touch pads at the back, will be offered from $249 in the U.S., Sony said in June. That’s $80 more than Nintendo’s 3-D portable player after the price cut.

Sony rose 0.1 percent to close at 1,925 yen in Tokyo trading before the announcement. It’s fallen 34 percent this year, compared with the 5.6 percent drop by Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mariko Yasu in Tokyo at myasu@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net.

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