PlayStation to go on sale in China

Sony Corp. plans to launch the PlayStation in China next year, a market Sony has so far stayed away from because of piracy problems, company officials said Monday.

Sony is also considering having Chinese specialists locally develop game titles for the console, the officials said.

A spokesman for Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., which produces and sells the PlayStation and software, declined to comment on details of the plan but said SCE is considering possibly launching the PlayStation in China next year.

By entering the Chinese market, Sony aims to cement its top position in the home video game business over Nintendo Co.’s Gamecube and Microsoft Co.’s Xbox.

According to industry analysts, however, Sony still needs to figure out ways to protect its copyrights and stop the massive circulation of pirated software games in China, which cost as little as $1 (about 124 yen) rather than 5,000 yen to 6,000 yen for new products in Japan.

PlayStation consoles currently available in China are imported mainly through Hong Kong.

More than 130 million PlayStation and PlayStation2 consoles have been sold in 120 countries.

The officials said Sony plans to utilize existing manufacturing bases in China, but prices and other details have yet to be decided.

Sony Chairman Nobuyuki Idei unveiled the plan in an interview published Monday in the Financial Times.

Sony wants to have its signature console and locally engineered software games in Chinese shops by next year, according to the newspaper.

“We have to encourage and attract Chinese creators to write the programs for us,” the Financial Times quoted Idei as saying.

“We can introduce at any time the hardware to the market, but the successful line-up of the game content is more important.

“We have loyal customers, so we have great hopes that, if we successfully create the Chinese software games, the (local) company will also try to protect copyrights.

“Of course, piracy is a big issue but we don’t focus too much on it. Look at the U.S. — it always criticizes China as a ‘pirate country.’ Now, all the (U.S.) kids there download music free.”