Sony was on Tuesday night preparing to unveil new details about the launch of its next-generation PlayStation 3 gaming console, amid expectations that the electronics maker might delay the launch until late this year.

Such a delay would mark the latest setback for Sony’s next-generation Blu-Ray DVD format.

It would also increase the pressure on video game publishers, who have been counting on brisk sales of PS3 titles to help them overcome a weak market for new games this year.

The PS3 is expected to be a major driver of growth for Blu-Ray, which is being backed by Sony and a number of technology and entertainment groups.

Toshiba, a rival electronics maker, is later this month expected to launch the first players compatible with HD-DVD, a rival high-definition format.

Mike Goodman, an analyst at Yankee Group, said Sony’s determination to pack the PS3 full of high-tech hardware was costing the company valuable time.

He said further delays would benefit Microsoft, Sony’s chief rival in the gaming console market, which launched its next-generation player, the Xbox 360, in November.

“Every day that goes by, Xbox 360s are selling and Microsoft is ramping up its production,” he said. “You have to question whether Sony is trying to take too big a chunk of the technology apple here.”

Sony’s original plans called for the PS3 to launch in Japan this spring, with launches in other markets such as the US and Europe later this year.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, a Japanese financial paper, on Wednesday reported that Sony was planning to delay the PS3 launch until November because of delays in developing Blu-Ray copy protection technology.

In a further sign of possible delays, the head of Sony Europe said at a Financial Times conference in London last week that the company would reveal more about the timing of the PS3 launch at the annual E3 electronics and gaming conference in Los Angeles in mid-May.

In the US, video game sales fell 13 per cent in February, after falling 5 per cent in January compared with the year before, according to NPD, an industry research group.

Sony could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. Ken Kutaragi, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, was expected to discuss details of the launch in a conference call in Tokyo on Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday morning, Sony’s Tokyo share price fell 1.6 per cent to Y5,480 against a 0.6 per cent gain in the Nikkei 225 Stock average.

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