Sony will receive the first shipments of game consoles for its Playstation 3 before the end of the month, in an early sign of progress in the company’s push to meet its launch date for the long-delayed PS3 of mid-November.

Asustek, the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, will deliver 4m game consoles to Sony over the next few months, starting with 200,000 units before the end of July, according to industry sources.

After originally planning to introduce the next-generation PlayStation after or even during the summer holidays, the Japanese company was forced by technical issues to delay the launch to November 11 in Japan and later that month in overseas markets.

The Asustek shipments “are coming one-and-a-half months earlier than expected”, said Tony Tseng, an analyst at Merrill Lynch in Taipei. He added this would give Sony additional time for quality checks in preparation for the launch.

Having the first batch of a new product made by outside contract manufacturers is a departure from Sony’s past practices.

The second wave of PS3 shipments would come from Honhai, the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer, said Robert Cheng, an analyst with CLSA in Taipei. “They have always come on board a few months after the first batch,” he said.

Observers said Sony had decided to outsource production of the first batch to cut costs. Nintendo’s game console and Microsoft’s Xbox are seen as more price-competitive than the PS3, and Sony has warned that its profits will be hit by the new game console’s launch this year.

Some industry sources speculated the earlier-than-expected first shipments could also indicate that Sony plans to launch the PS3 earlier than in mid-November to secure a longer run-up to Christmas sales.

“The date is a little too close to Christmas,” said a source close to Sony’s Taiwanese contract manufacturers. “So they are looking to get the launch closer to the originally-planned back-to-school date. It will not be as late as everybody has been assuming.”

However, Sony said on Wednesday it did not plan to change the PS3 launch date from November 11. The group also declined to name any contract manufacturers of the PS3 console.

Asustek declined to comment.

Sony aims to sell 4m PS3 consoles by the end of this year and 6m by the end of next March.

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