/ 4 September 2008

Sony unveils improved PSP

Sales are improving in Japan for Sony's PlayStation Portable, and a beefed-up version with a clearer display is expected to add momentum.

Sales are improving in Japan for Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP) handheld video-game machine, and a beefed-up version with a clearer display is expected to add momentum, a senior executive said this week.

The portable game machine faces tough competition from Nintendo DS — the handheld machine from the Japanese manufacturer of Pokémon and Super Mario games. Nintendo also has a big hit in the Wii home console that’s battering Sony’s PlayStation 3 in sales.

The revamped PSP with the improved liquid crystal display and a built-in microphone will go on sale on October 16 in Japan at the same price of the previous model, 19 800 yen ($180), said Shawn Layden, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Japan.

The machine, called PSP-3000, is also being promised for the United States and Europe next month.

Layden said the PSP is gaining popularity in Japan, nearly doubling in sales for this year’s first eight months compared with the previous year. People are increasingly using it to listen to music, watch video and access the internet on the go, he said at a Tokyo hotel.

”The PlayStation Portable can be called a PlayStation Personal,” he told reporters. ”It has become a lifestyle tool for owners.”

Sony also unveiled a service planned for later this year in Japan that will allow several PSP machines to play games together, even if they aren’t in the same room, by connecting to the internet through PlayStation 3 machines. Layden said details will be released later.

Competition among game makers is intensifying ahead of the year-end shopping season.

Sony has sold about 41-million PSP machines globally — 10-million in Japan. Nintendo has sold 77,5-million Nintendo DS handheld devices worldwide, nearly 23-million in Japan.

On top of that, Nintendo has scored success with its predecessor GameBoy series, selling more than 100-million GameBoys cumulatively worldwide.

On Monday, price cuts for Japan were announced for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 home consoles. The Xbox 360 has been struggling in Japan, a market dominated by the locals, Sony and Nintendo.

Microsoft doesn’t disclose how many of the cumulative 20-million Xbox 360 machines sold worldwide were Japan sales, but it is widely viewed to be fewer than numbers sold elsewhere.

The Wii console has been popular, selling 29,6-million worldwide so far. PlayStation 3 sales have lagged at fewer than half of the Wii at 14,4-million.

Also shown on Tuesday was footage from game software planned for the PSP later this year, including Gundam vs Gundam from Bandai Namco Games and Dissidia Final Fantasy from Square Enix. Both are part of a game series that are extremely popular in Japan. — Sapa-AP