Games represent Sony’s other big problem

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Is Sony’s games division turning into more of a liability than an asset?

The problems encountered in the unit could be potentially more worrying in the long run than the impact of Sony’s battery scare.

Sony desperately needs the PlayStation 3, its next generation games console, to succeed.

The PlayStation has probably done more than any other product to maintain Sony’s status as an icon of the consumer electronics world.

PS2, a record-breaking hit for Sony, is arguably the only product since the Walkman that has sustained Sony’s credentials as an innovator with street cred.

The PS2, which still dominates the global video games market, has been a spectacular success story for Sony, tiding the group over its darkest days when its consumer electronics division was in the doldrums.

But Sony’s revelation yesterday that PlayStation Portable, its handheld games console, would fall short of expectations has dealt a blow to its reputation as the king of games.

PSP was also a highly sought-after item when it was first launched. Sony conceded yesterday that its failure to provide sufficiently attractive software titles had undermined the PSP and contributed substantially to its huge profits revision.

PS3, for its part, must live up to tremendous expectations, which Ken Kutaragi, Sony’s games chief, has done much to fan by promising the processing power of supercomputers and the graphics of a computer geek’s dreams.

The problem is, Sony may not be able to deliver on its promises, judging from recent announcements.

It is not that the PS3 will not be the dream machine it is made out to be.

But the games console, which is using untested technology, is already plagued with manufacturing problems, which led to the recently announced delay in shipments and a lowering of initial shipment volumes.

Analysts worry that the enormous energy consumption of the PS3 could lead to overheating problems, causing outages, if not worse.

Sony cannot afford to get it wrong with the PS3.

Any serious problem with its new games console would make the battery scare pale by comparison.

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