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Forecast: Up to 7 million PlayStation 3s to ship soon

Executive of Blu-ray drive manufacturer expects huge numbers of new game console to drive disc format's success.

Following Sony's unsurprising PlayStation 3 keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show, some pundits prophesized that the console would undergo supply shortages similar to those that Xbox 360 suffered last year.

Just yesterday, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities gave a sunnier estimate, predicting 1 million PS3 consoles would be available for a November launch. By contrast, Microsoft moved only about 326,000 in the week of November 22, when the Xbox 360 went on sale.

However, Wilson's optimism looks like it's coming from the Grim Reaper in comparison to Pioneer executive Andy Parson's belief. Speaking with Web site The Digital Bits, Parsons talked about the Blu-ray disc format (Pioneer announced several Blu-ray-compatible players at CES) and how the Blu-ray-compatible PlayStation 3 would shape the success of the format.

"The PS3 is launching right at the forefront of Blu-ray disc," Parsons said. "If Sony ships the kind of numbers we expect them to this year, that will provide a very rapid growth of players out there hungry for titles. We've been hearing between 4 (million) and 7 million (PS3s) could ship."

When its Xbox 360 console launched late last year, Microsoft experienced rampant shortages in the U.S. and Europe. However, it was largely due to supply constraints on some of the system's internal parts. The company originally targeted 3 million units to be out the door in the console's first 90 days on the market, but adjusted its figures to 4.5 million to 5.5 million consoles to be shipped by June 2006.

Despite Sony's previous announcement of a spring 2006 launch for the PS3, a consensus of industry analysts believes that the PS3 won't ship until later this year in North America, with a possible midyear launch in Japan.

If Sony shipped between 4 million and 7 million units in less than six months (with the likely scenario of several months in Japan only), the company would outpace Microsoft's lofty goals. To do that, Sony would need a near-perfect production process unmarred by supply shortages and hardware issues.

But unless the console has a $699 price tag, there won't be any problem with demand. When Sony launched its PlayStation 2 in 2000 in Japan, it sold 980,000 units in its first weekend. In its first day in U.S. retailers, Sony moved 510,000 PS2 consoles. To date, the PS2 has sold more than 100 million units.

Sony had not responded to inquiries from GameSpot as of press time.

Tim Surette reported for GameSpot.