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Pay now, play later with PSP

Online-retailer EBGames becomes first major U.S. retailer to start taking advance orders for Sony's new handheld game machine.

You pays your money and you takes your chances with the PlayStation Portable.

EBGames, the online arm of specialty chain store Electronics Boutique, has become the first major U.S. retailer to start taking advance orders for Sony's new handheld game machine, even though the company has yet to set a price or date for a North American launch.

The retailer cites a price of $400 and a delivery date of March 31 for a PSP bundle that includes one game machine, three games and one accessory.

The listing goes on to note that prices and delivery dates are subject to change, and customers could end up paying more or less depending on the final price set by Sony. Credit cards won't be charged until 10 days before shipping, according to the site.

The PSP is Sony's high-stakes bid to grab a chunk of the lucrative market for handheld games. The company introduced the device--which sports an advanced LCD (liquid-crystal display), multimedia capabilities and wireless functions--in Japan last month.

But Sony has been noncommittal about both the date and price for the European and North American launches, saying most recently that the PSP will probably arrive in those areas by the end of March.

That didn't stop the British arm of retail giant from setting a delivery date of March 18 and a surprisingly steep price of $340 (180 pounds) when it began taking advance orders for the PSP earlier this month.

Sony Computer Entertainment President Ken Kutaragi said last week that Sony had shipped more than 800,000 PSP units in its first month of availability in Japan, and the company planned to double monthly production to keep up with demand.