HolidayBuyer's Guide

PlayStation 2 debut short of Sony's goal

The electronics giant says it sold 980,000 of the video-game consoles in the three days since the product debuted in Japanese stores to long lines, falling short of its expectations by 20,000 units.

TOKYO--Sony said it sold 980,000 PlayStation 2 video-game consoles in the three days since the product debuted in Japanese stores to long lines, falling short of its expectations by 20,000 units.

The electronics giant, maker of the best-selling PlayStation game machine, said it sold 380,000 consoles through its online site, PlayStation.com, and another 600,000 at retail outlets throughout Japan. To date, 720,000 units had been shipped, with another 260,000 to be shipped in the next two weeks.

Sony had planned to ship 1 million units of the 128-bit gaming console in the first weekend of sales, but said it now expects to reach that goal by March 15, with shipments reaching 1.4 million by the end of the month. The company, which hopes to develop the machine into an Internet terminal, said some shipments had been delayed by as much as 10 days because of a shortage of memory cards, which are sold with the consoles.

Thousands lined up outside stores in central Tokyo this weekend for a chance to be the first in the world to own the new machine. Consumers began lining up outside shops selling the PlayStation 2 as many as two days before sales began--some even sleeping on cardboard boxes and under blankets they had brought so they could secure their place in line.

Along with the 128-bit processor, dubbed the "emotion engine," the PlayStation 2 has a DVD (digital versatile disk) player capable of playing feature-length movies and compact discs, as well as most of the games designed for the original PlayStation.

Sony, the world leader in the $15 billion market for home game hardware and software, expected to ship 1 million units in Japan in the first two days after the PlayStation 2's release and another 500,000 a month after that. In the original PlayStation's first year after its introduction in Japan, Sony sold an average of 225,000 units a month.

Japan sales of the original PlayStation have averaged 288,000 units a month in the machine's five years on the market, while worldwide sales have averaged 1.2 million a month.

Through December, Sony had sold 71.8 million PlayStations--about 24 percent in Japan, 39 percent in Europe and 37 percent in North America.

Sony's shares rose at the open today and then slipped as much as 6.4 percent. The shares were expected to get a boost after fans rushed to buy the new game console.

"A lot of the good news has already been realized" for Sony, said Michael Wilkins, cross-market manager at Credit Lyonnais Securities Japan. "Companies are beginning to close their books or are closing their books for the year and so there's some ongoing profit-taking."

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