CHIBA — The country’s largest video game show kicked off its three-day annual run here Friday, with a record 117 firms showcasing their latest products and nearly 500 new game titles unveiled.

Sony’s PlayStation Portable enjoyed the limelight at Tokyo Game Show 2004, surrounded by a bevy of scantily clad promotional staff — some of who were dressed as game characters — and a myriad of game consoles and glaring screens.

The event at the Makuhari Messe convention center provides the first occasion for the public to test the PSP’s 22 game titles.

The sample portable game consoles were tied to the promotion girls’ waists in the Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. booth, possibly to stop visitors from stealing the new products.

The PSP is Sony’s first crack at the hand-held game console market, which has been dominated by Nintendo Co., the maker of Game Boy Advance.

Sony has not named a release date or price for the PSP, stating only that it will hit the Japanese market by the end of this year, with overseas markets to follow by the end of March.

The firm is confident that the PSP will dominate the market with a wide range of new game titles, just as PlayStation did when it debuted a decade ago.

“No matter what new game platform emerges, the main question is what kind of software users can play with,” Ken Kutaragi, Sony Computer Entertainment chief executive, told a news conference earlier this week in Tokyo.

Game makers such as Konami made PSP game titles available for play at their booths.

Rival Nintendo said earlier this week it will release its new Nintendo DS portable console on Nov. 21 in the U.S. and on Dec. 2 in Japan.

It is rare for a Japanese game maker to initially launch a product overseas. Company officials said they are simply getting in ahead of the all-important Christmas season.

As has been the case every year, Nintendo did not participate in the show.

Instead, Nintendo stages its own events, such as the preview of the Nintendo DS that will be held in five Japanese cities in November.

There was also a growing presence at this year’s show of game software that can be used on cell phone handsets. The rapid spread of high-speed third-generation networks and small liquid crystal displays with ever-sharper images has allowed makers to create elaborate games for mobile handsets.

The Computer Entertainment Suppliers Association, which organized the show, said cell phone handsets enjoy the third-largest number of game titles behind PlayStation 2 and personal computers.

The event was open to the media and game industry personnel Friday. It will be open to the public Saturday and Sunday.

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