Sony to launch high-end PS3 in Europe

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TOKYO - Japan's Sony Corp. will launch the high-end version of its PlayStation 3 (PS3) game console in Europe on March 23, but it said Thursday it has no plan at the moment to offer the basic model there.

Last September, Sony delayed the European launch of the PS3, Sony's most important strategic product this business year, to March from November due to a production glitch, missing the critical year-end shopping season in one of its key markets.

"We will focus on the launch of the one with a 60 gigabyte drive and have no plan now to introduce the 20 gigabyte model," Sony Computer Entertainment spokesman Satoshi Fukuoka said. Sony Computer Entertainment is Sony's video game unit.

The electronics and entertainment conglomerate started selling both the high-end, 60 GB hard-disk drive model and the basic 20 GB model in Japan and North America last November.

The high-end machine is already outselling the 20 GB console, whose storage capacity can be used up quickly with games featuring high-definition graphics, so Sony's decision to concentrate on the 60 GB model is a natural move, analysts said.

It will sell for €599  ($776), and will also become available in Africa, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand on March 23.

About 1 million PS3 units will be available during the initial launch period in those regions, Sony said.

The Tokyo-based company, which competes with Microsoft Corp. and Nintendo Co. Ltd. in the $30 billion video game market, aims to ship six million units of the PS3 globally by the end of March.

It has packed the PS3 with cutting-edge technology such as a Blu-ray high-definition optical disc player and the Cell microchip, dubbed a "supercomputer on a chip".

But the advanced components have driven up production costs, making it challenging for Sony to achieve the shipping target, analysts said.

Nintendo sells its new console, the Wii, for about $250 in the United States, while Sony offers the 60 GB model of the PS3 for $599.

Sony shares closed up 1.6% at 5,720 yen following the announcement, outperforming the benchmark Nikkei average which fell 0.28%.
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