June 3, 2009

Sony Debuts New PSP To Compete With Rival Nintendo

Sony unveiled its PlayStation handled game device, called the PSP Go, on Tuesday during the second day of E3, the largest U.S. video games conference, Reuters reported.

A day after rival console-maker Microsoft charmed audiences with its "Natal" - groundbreaking technology utilizing full-body motion-capture for gamers - Sony and Nintendo vied for the spotlight during the first full day of the show, which is expected to draw some 40,000 game enthusiasts.

Executives said Sony's PSP Go will hit North American and European shelves October 1 for about $249, before going on sale in Japan November 1. It will be half the size of Sony's current PSP 3000 and 40 percent lighter.

Sony hopes to push at least 15 million units of the PSP or PlayStation Portable in the financial year to March, up from 14.1 million units a year earlier. PSP competes with Nintendo's DS.

The new PSP Go is about the size of a smartphone and sports a large screen that slides up to reveal two clusters of controller buttons. It also has Wi-Fi capability and 16 gigabytes of memory for storing pictures, music and games.

Sony is looking to regain a loss of market share this year to its rival Nintendo, according to analysts.

Nintendo's Wii has been a sensation due to its family-friendly play and fitness-style games. The company announced it sold more than 15 million units of its blockbuster "Wii Fit" fitness game, and plans an update -- the Wii Fit Plus -- later this year.

Additionally, Nintendo's gaming consoles and hand-held devices have outsold its rivals' products in past months. Since its release in the United States on April 5, Nintendo's DSi sold roughly 800,000 units in the month, far outpacing Sony's PSP handheld.

Research group NPD said even though sales fell by half to 340,000 units alongside a dive in consumer spending, Nintendo's core "Wii" console was also the top-selling platform in April.

"PSP Go represents a new evolution of PSP, specifically designed for the digital lifestyle," said Kaz Harai, Chairman and Group Chief Executive Officer of Sony Computer Entertainment.

Even amid a global economic slowdown, analysts and industry executives say video games have benefited from the public's tendency to stay home and avoid expensive outings and the game market remains resilient.

U.S. video game-related sales shrank 17 percent in April to $1.03 billion, logging their second straight monthly decline, according to NPD. Game software sales fell 23 percent to $510.7 million that month, while that of hardware slid 8 percent to $391.6 million.

So far this year, Nintendo's business had expanded 19 percent while the rest of the industry declined about 4 percent, according to Reggie Fils-Aime, President of Nintendo of America.

He said the company's business is up this year, and all of Nintendo's huge titles are yet to launch.

"We are feeling pretty good about this year," he added.

Nintendo released some of its most popular titles for the Wii gaming console in 2008 including "Super Smash Brothers Brawl" and "Wii Fit" -- early in the year.

Other titles like "Wii Sport Resort" due in July and "Wii Fit Plus" and a new entry in the "Mario Bros." franchise for the Wii will reach stores ahead of the holiday season.

Nintendo will not resort to a price war to try and move consoles or devices, Fils-Aime told Reuters.

He said price cuts are temporary measures and the industry has shown that compelling software is what drives the consumer.

By broadening its audience beyond hard-core video gamers, sales of Nintendo's Wii have humbled those of more technically superior and pricier rival consoles from Microsoft Corp and Sony Corp.


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