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Analyst: Sony could delay PS3

After reviewing the outlook for the launch of the Xbox 360, a games analyst thinks Sony could push the launch of PlayStation 3 into 2007.

A note buried deep in an analyst's eight-page memo about Electronic Arts has gotten video game console gadflies buzzing about the possibility that Sony might delay the launch of its much-awaited PlayStation 3.

Release dates are among the most closely watched elements of the forthcoming wave of next-generation game consoles, particularly Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PS3.

With that in mind, Microsoft had appeared to be in the fast lane when it announced earlier this year that the Xbox 360 will be available this holiday season. Sony expects the PS3 to hit the streets early next year, giving the Xbox a lead of several months in garnering attention and sales.

But Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter thinks that chronology may prove inaccurate. He believes Microsoft, which reportedly has plans for only 10 to 12 games to be available for the Xbox 360's launch, will fall far short of dominating the market. Pachter also wrote that he expects Sony to try to undercut the Xbox 360 launch by lowering the price of its still-popular PlayStation 2 to $99.

All together, Pachter told CNET, he thinks that the Xbox 360 launch will not go as well as Microsoft hopes and that, "What I'm trying to highlight here is that Sony has options."

And those options, he wrote in his memo--which focused on his outlook for Electronic Arts, but also touched on the upcoming market for console games--include "the possibility that the PS3 launch will slip early into 2007."

But Pachter is clear that he would view such a delay as something Sony would do only if it feels it doesn't need to keep up with any potential market lead Microsoft would get from releasing the Xbox 360 first. Rather, his opinion was that Sony could take such a step from a position of strength, not from any problems with getting the PS3 to market.

Microsoft said it doesn't comment on speculation. Sony didn't return requests for comment.

Not everyone agrees with Pachter's reasoning.

Richard Doherty, president of the analyst firm Envisioneering, said briefings he's gotten from Sony lead him to believe the company is sticking to its original plan.

"Every division of Sony is committed to the PS3 for the spring of next year, which we believe will be at (the game industry's trade show) E3," Doherty said. "They are committed to the second quarter of 2006."