Sony Enlists HTC, Rowling to Bolster PS3 Gaming Platform

Sony Enlists HTC, J.K. Rowling to Bolster PlayStation 3 Platform
"Wonderbook: Book of Spells," from "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling, a new Sony Corp. PlayStation video game is unveiled during the E3 trade show in Los Angeles. Photographer: Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg

Sony Corp., moving to bolster its PlayStation 3 video-game platform, added movies, TV shows and exclusive games including “Wonderbook: Book of Spells” from “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling.

The company announced a partnership with mobile-phone maker HTC Corp. at the E3 video-game trade show in Los Angeles yesterday. The Tokyo-based consumer electronics maker also unveiled Sony-only titles such as “PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale” that work with the PS3 and its Vita handheld device.

Sony, Microsoft Corp. and Nintendo Co. are working to broaden the appeal of their consoles in a battle for living-room supremacy, while countering the threat from games on smartphones and Facebook Inc. The next “Assassin’s Creed” from Ubisoft Entertainment and “Call of Duty” from Activision Blizzard Inc. will showcase interoperability between the PS3 and the wireless Vita, Sony said.

“They didn’t dwell too much on the Vita as a device but on the interoperability, which is smart,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles. Sony is taking the pragmatic approach that “if you’re going to be on one device, you ought to be on all of them,” he said.

With “Assassin’s Creed” and “Call of Duty,” both available for the holiday season, Sony will feature the ability to provide users seamless movement from one device to the other.

Sony is also extending its PlayStation Network service, making videos from Hulu Plus and Crackle available on the Vita, as well as classic games. Vintage titles such as “Tomb Raider” and “Final Fantasy” will be offered for Vita through PSN starting in summer, and the service will add the indie game “Unfinished Swan” exclusively.

‘Book of Spells’

Rowling’s “Book of Spells,” to be released in the fall, is aimed at younger players and utilizes the PlayStation Move controller to create an augmented reading experience, Sony said. The game will project images such as simulated fire onto a book, using a wand to manipulate the action.

The PlayStation 3, released in November 2006, and Microsoft’s Xbox 360, introduced a year earlier, face added competition later this year from Nintendo’s new Wii U.

Microsoft introduced software yesterday called Xbox SmartGlass that will link the Xbox 360 to phones, tablets and personal computers. The Redmond, Washington-based company also formed a partnership with Nike Inc. for a “Nike+ Kinect Training” program with the Kinect controller.

Wii U

On June 3, Kyoto, Japan-based Nintendo demonstrated a touchscreen controller for the Wii U that allows for messaging between players and game downloads. The tablet-like gamepad can serve as a second screen for Wii games, make video calls or browse the Internet.

Sales of PlayStation game consoles will probably drop to 16 million units from 18 million in the fiscal year started April 1, Sony said in May. Sales of portable game players, including the PS Vita, will more than double to 16 million units from 6.8 million, the company said.

Sony is forecasting revenue to rise 14 percent to 7.4 trillion yen ($94 billion) this fiscal year, partly because of the projected surge in sales of portable game players.

The game unit turned to a profit of 46.5 billion yen in the year ended March 2011 after four consecutive years of losses, Mami Imada, a Tokyo-based spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. The business posted a profit of around 30 billion yen in the year ended in March 2012, she said.

Next Generation

Greater coordination between Sony’s video-game business and its other entertainment units is also a focus for Kazuo Hirai, Sony’s new chief executive officer. In March, he appointed film-studio chairman Michael Lynton as chief executive of Sony Corp. of America, placing oversight of the music, television and movie units under one executive.

Sony rose 2.2 percent to 1,018 yen as of 12:39 p.m. in Tokyo trading. The shares rebounded from a 1.7 percent decline to 996 yen yesterday, the lowest closing price since 1980.

Hirai, who turned around the PlayStation unit, is counting on digital cameras, games and mobile gadgets to help drive a revival, he said on April 12.

Sony plans a 2013 release for the successor to the PlayStation 3, the Wall Street Journal reported last week, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter. The company considered a download-only plan before deciding to include an optical disc drive, the newspaper said.

Microsoft will begin selling the next version of the Xbox in 2013 at the earliest, people with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg News in March.

“The launch of the new consoles is traditionally the time when we see exciting new game franchises,” Joe Minton, president of San Francisco-based Digital Development Management, which represents game developers, said in an interview before yesterday’s event. “We’ve got to suffer through another year and a half before that happens.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE