Sony Says Holiday Game Sales to Be Close to Last Year’s Levels

Sony Corp., Japan’s biggest exporter of consumer electronics, said it expects end-of year holiday sales at its games unit to be similar to last year’s levels.

“It’ll be somewhere close to the range of last year,” Andrew House, head of the company’s games business, said in an interview today in Chiba prefecture, near Tokyo.

Demand for Sony’s PlayStation 3 game console is “looking strong and looking on track,” House said, a day after the Tokyo-based company unveiled a smaller, lighter version of the gaming machine. The new consoles, featuring more storage capacity than current models, will go on sale Sept. 25 in North America, starting from $249, Sony said yesterday.

The games unit is among the focus areas listed this year by Kazuo Hirai, 51, who became Sony’s chief executive officer in April and started reforming its unprofitable television operation and cutting 10,000 jobs. The company is trying to return to profit following four straight annual losses after the yen gained, the global economy slowed and consumers switched to Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. devices.

Sony sold more than 6.5 million game consoles, including home and portable models, during the 2011 end-of-year holiday season, it said in January.

Online sales of games are growing, House said today. Sony will also start the “PlayStation Mobile” service, allowing users to download games on their smartphones and tablet computers, on Oct. 3, the company said yesterday.

“We are seeing a significant growth in the digital side of our business,” House said in the interview.

Wii U

Sony is introducing the smaller PS3 console as it tries to win back customers flocking to games played on mobile devices and personal computers. The new PS3 will debut in Europe on Sept. 28 and in Japan on Oct. 4, the company said yesterday.

Nintendo Co., the world’s largest maker of video-game machines, will release its new Wii U home-gaming console in the U.S. on Nov. 18, priced from $300.

Sony is also preparing to offer new cloud-based gaming services, House said at a press conference in Tokyo yesterday, without elaborating.

The company, which bought out a mobile-phone venture from Ericsson AB for 1.05 billion euros ($1.4 billion) in February, plans to draw on its skills in games to develop new smartphones and tablet computers, Kunimasa Suzuki, an executive vice president overseeing mobile products, said earlier this month.

Last month, the Japanese electronics maker cut its full-year sales target for handheld game players, including the PS Vita, to 12 million units from 16 million predicted three months earlier. The company also lowered its target for TVs, compact cameras and PCs.

The operating loss, or sales minus the cost of goods sold and administrative expenses, at Sony’s game unit was 3.5 billion yen in the three months ended June 30, compared with an income of 4.1 billion yen a year earlier, the company said in August.

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