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June 21, 2007 9:35 pm

Sony to triple number of PS3 games

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Sony plans to more than triple the number of game titles for its PlayStation 3 console by the end of March 2008, in an effort to boost lacklustre sales and bring its struggling games unit back into the black.

Kazuo “Kaz” Hirai, the new chief executive of Sony Computer Entertainment, Sony’s games division, said 200 software titles and 180 download-only titles would be released in the current fiscal year, compared with a total of 110 titles available now.

The release of new, exclusive software titles is vital for the PS3’s success. In the crucial US market, two of Nintendo’s Wii consoles are sold for every one PS3, according to NPD, the research company, and Sony’s games division is not expected to return to profit until at least 2008.

Sir Howard Stringer, chief executive, on Thursday told Sony’s annual shareholders’ meeting that senior executives took responsibility for the PS3’s dismal performance last year.

Mr Hirai, who replaced Ken Kutaragi – the father of the PlayStation – as president and group chief executive of Sony’s games division, said one of his most pressing tasks was reaching out to third-party software developers.

The PS3’s numerous launch date delays are perceived to have adversely affected Sony’s relationship with important software developers worldwide. “[Our relationship with third-party software developers] wasn’t broken but there’s always room for improvement,” Mr Hirai told the Financial Times.

Though Sony’s core consumer electronics division is turning around, boosted by brisk sales of Bravia LCD TVs and digital cameras, its loss-making games division still continues to weigh on its bottom line.

Because of the massive investment costs in the PS3, Sony’s games unit reported a hefty operating loss of Y232.3bn ($1.8bn) and said it would not turn a profit until the fiscal 2008-09 year, at the earliest.

Mr Hirai said that Sony was exploring possible new sources of revenues for its games division, in addition to the traditional licensing fees it earns from software developers.

“In-game advertising presents some interesting opportunities. It is still a nascent market but  obviously something we are taking a serious look at. because  there are serious growth opportunities,” Mr Hirai said.

“Home [PS3’s online virtual world slated to launch this autumn] also presents unique advertising opportunities.”

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