Sony Sets February Japan PS4 Debut to Focus on U.S. First

Sony Corp. will release the PlayStation 4 console in Japan three months after it reaches shelves in North America, as the company seeks to avoid shortages that hurt sales of its predecessor.

The timing will allow Sony to focus on meeting demand in its biggest sales markets for the peak holiday shopping season, Andrew House, chief executive for the company’s game business, said in Tokyo. The machine will be released on Feb. 22 in Japan, compared with Nov. 15 in North America and Nov. 29 in Europe. Sony’s machine will reach 32 markets this year.

The PS4, which has a U.S. retail price of $399, is a central element of Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai’s plan to revive Sony, which is competing against new machines from Nintendo Co. and Microsoft Corp. The PS3 sold less than half its early estimates as parts shortages slowed production after the November 2006 release.

“We had a tough experience of supply not meeting demand at an early stage of introduction for PS2 and PS3,” House said. “This time, we want to avoid that happening again. We want to launch it when we can meet the volume.”

Sony rose 2.1 percent to 2,135 yen at the close of trade in Tokyo. The stock has more than doubled this year compared with a 38 percent gain in the Topix index.

Global Battle

The new consoles will be offered in Sony’s home market for 39,980 yen ($402), the company said yesterday. Orders have already topped 1 million, House said on Aug. 21. The console will sell in Europe for 399 euros ($526).

The PS4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One are each projected to sell 3 million units worldwide this year, the estimate of Michael Olson, an analyst with Piper Jaffray in Minneapolis.

While the competition between the PS4, Microsoft’s new Xbox One and Nintendo’s year-old Wii U will play out globally, Hirai has set a goal to be No. 1 in game consoles in the U.S., the biggest chunk of the $67 billion video-game market.

In the last round of consoles, Sony placed third in the U.S., according to NPD Group data through 2010. Microsoft overtook the Wii 2½ years ago and has led since.

“The U.S. is a huge market that Sony does not want to miss,” said Koki Shiraishi, an analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities based in Tokyo. “The PS4 is for core gamers and lots of core gamers are from the U.S.”

Vita TV

Sony also said yesterday it will introduce a thinner, lighter PS Vita handheld player equipped with Wi-Fi, and a PS Vita TV device targeting families that will offer content from streaming services including Hulu LLC and Japan’s Tsutaya.

The PS Vita TV will go on sale starting in November for 9,480 yen, House said.

The unveiling of the PS4 in June impressed game enthusiasts and industry analysts with its $399 price, compared with $499 for the Xbox One, and policies that included unrestricted swapping and trade-ins of used games.

The new PlayStation, with a combined processor and memory architecture from Sunnyvale, California-based Advanced Micro Devices Inc., features a PC-like design that Sony executives say will make developing games easier.

The game unit posted an operating loss of 14.8 billion yen in the quarter ended June 30, Sony said last month. Revenue, including inter-segment revenue, was little changed at 117.9 billion yen.

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