Aussie PS3 buyers get 007 incentive


TOKYO -- Sony is handing out freebies to buyers of its PlayStation 3 as its hefty price appears to be scaring away shoppers.

The latest giveaway will take place in Australia, where the gaming console launches March 23. The first 20,000 buyers will receive a copy of the James Bond movie "Casino Royale."

Free downloads of the PS3 game "Gran Turismo" -- out since December for U.S. and Japanese PS3 owners -- also will be offered in Australia.

A PlayStation 3 model with a 60-gigabyte hard drive costs 999.95 Australian dollars ($790). The console costs $600 in the U.S., where it's been on sale since November.

"They have to sweeten the deal a little bit," said Hiroshi Kamide, director of research and game expert at KBC Securities Japan in Tokyo. "The problem with the product so far is that no one has fully understood why it's so expensive."

In the U.S., Sony also offered the movie "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" as a freebie. (The movies are produced by Sony's movie studio, and they're given away as Blu-ray high-definition discs, which the game console can play.)

Although Sony officials say PlayStation 3 sales are on track, the machine is still a money-loser for the Japanese electronics and entertainment company.

Sony blamed losses in its video game operations for its faltering profits in the October-December quarter, when Sony profits slipped 5% to 160 billion yen ($1.3 billion), largely because of PS3 startup costs.

Sony said it shipped 1.84 million PS3 machines worldwide through Dec. 31, and is sticking to its earlier target of 6 million PS3 consoles by March 31.

Nintendo Co.'s $250 Wii, which launched about the same time as the PS3, is being snatched up and has been out of stock at some stores. Nintendo sold 3.19 million Wii machines worldwide by the end of the year.

The Kyoto-based maker of "Super Mario" and "Pokemon" games said earlier this year that it's well on its way to reaching its target of global shipment of 6 million Wii machines by March 31, the end of the current fiscal year.

Kamide, the gaming industry expert, said the PS3 needs a fuller lineup of new, attractive games to make the purchase seem worth the price.

"It's the least they can do," he said of the freebies. "If you're paying a head above everybody else for a similar product, a game machine, you want to be able to categorically say the reason why it's so expensive."