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U.S. holidays to slow PS4 Japan debut

Bloomberg

Sony Corp. will release the PlayStation 4 in Japan three months after it hits shelves in North America as the company seeks to avoid shortages that hurt sales of the console’s predecessor.

The timing will allow Sony to focus on meeting demand in its biggest sales markets for the peak holiday shopping season, Andrew House, chief executive for the company’s game business, said in Tokyo.

The PS4 will be released Feb. 22 in the domestic market, compared with Nov. 15 in North America and Nov. 29 in Europe.

Retailing for $399 (¥39,700) in the United States and €399 (¥52,700) in Europe, the PS4 is a central element of CEO Kazuo Hirai’s plan to revive Sony, which is competing against new machines from Nintendo Co. and Microsoft Corp.

The PS3 sold less than half its early estimates as parts shortages slowed production after its November 2006 release.

“We had a tough experience of supply not meeting demand at an early stage of introduction for (the) PS2 and PS3,” House said. “This time, we want to avoid that happening again. We want to launch it when we can meet the volume.”

The new consoles will be offered in Sony’s home market for ¥39,980, the company said Monday. Orders have already topped 1 million, House said Aug. 21.

The PS4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One are each projected to sell 3 million units worldwide this year, according to estimates by Michael Olson, an analyst with Piper Jaffray in Minneapolis.

While the competition between the PS4, the new Xbox One and Nintendo’s year-old Wii U consoles will play out globally, Hirai has set a goal of becoming No. 1 in the U.S., which accounts for the biggest chunk of the $67 billion video game market.

In the last generation of consoles, Sony placed third in the United States, according to NPD Group data through 2010. Microsoft’s Xbox One overtook Nintendo’s Wii around 2½ years ago and has since led the market.

“The U.S. is a huge market that Sony does not want to miss” out on, said Koki Shiraishi, an analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. “The PS4 is for core gamers and lots of core gamers are from the United States.”

Sony also said Monday it will introduce a thinner, lighter PS Vita handheld player equipped with Wi-Fi, and a PS Vita TV device targeting families that will offer content from streaming services including Hulu and the Tsutaya chain.