January 13, 2005 10:41 AM PST

Amazon sets delivery date for PSP

Sony won't say for sure when the rest of the world will get its hands on the PlayStation Portable, but Amazon will.

The British arm of the online retail giant has begun taking advance orders for the handheld game machine, citing a delivery date of March 18.

Questioned Thursday, a Sony Computer Entertainment America representative said that the PSP was on track for a March launch in North America, with a specific date and price to be announced later.

The PSP is Sony's high-stakes bid to grab a chunk of the lucrative market for handheld games. The company introduced the device--which sports an advanced LCD, multimedia capabilities and wireless functions--in Japan last month.

But Sony has been noncommittal about both the date and price for the European and North American launches, information the electronics giant was expected to supply at a press event at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week. Instead, Kaz Hirai, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, said only that the PSP would "most likely" be available in North America by the end of March.

Perplexing price
The launch date cited on Amazon fits with information from other retailers, such as game specialist Gamestop, which lists a slew of third-party PSP accessories set to go on sale March 15.

The Amazon UK price of 180 pounds--the equivalent of almost $340--is perplexing, however. The device sells for about $193 (19,800 yen) in Japan, and Sony executives have said the company will keep the price under $200 in other regions.

Sony revealed plans for the PSP last year, positioning it as a potential breakthrough machine that would do for digital media what the Walkman did for analog music.

But the PSP has been a difficult birth for Sony, which has been dogged by development and production issues that pushed back the device's North American introduction and limited its Japanese launch to 200,000 units.

The PSP brings Sony into a tough market long dominated by Nintendo's Game Boy devices. Nintendo is looking to expand on its lead with the new DS and advanced handheld game players with capabilities such as wireless networking and a touch-sensitive screen.

Nintendo launched the DS in North America in late November, and the gadget quickly became the hot item of the holiday shopping season. The company quickly boosted already optimistic sales estimates to predict worldwide sales of 5 million units by March 31, the end of the company's fiscal year.

The PSP's prospects have been boosted by growing support from game publishers, including Take-Two Interactive Software, which said earlier this week it would produce a PSP version of "Grand Theft Auto," the top-selling game franchise for Sony's PlayStation 2 living room console.

 

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