TOKYO--Sony said it will double production of its PlayStation 2 in the next three months after parts shortages left many would-be buyers empty-handed after the video game console was introduced in Europe and the United States.
The game console maker is trying to make up for delays caused by problems with the console's advanced graphics chip. The console was the must-have item this Christmas though production delays forced the company to scale back shipment targets in the United States by as much as half.
Sony said it wants to ship 10 million consoles worldwide in the year ending March 31, a goal that included 3 million shipments in both Europe and the United States. That goal will probably be met, Sony Computer Entertainment Vice Chairman Shigeo Maruyama told Bloomberg News, an assertion some analysts doubt.
"It's difficult for Sony to double output right now," said Takashi Oka, an analyst with Tsubasa Research Institute. "Sony's making just 1 million units a month right now and needs time to tool up for the extra production."
Sony's plans to make the PlayStation 2 a home server to download music, movies and games from the Internet are central to its home-entertainment strategy. Boosting the popularity of the console is key to encouraging software makers to develop more games and dominating the machine business. Sony has shipped 5 million of the devices since April 1.
The company is increasing the PlayStation 2 production before rivals release their own competing machines. Nintendo's Gamecube and Microsoft's Xbox console are due later this year. A nonworking prototype of Xbox was unveiled this month by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.
Sony's shortage of graphic synthesizer chips that enable animation rivaling motion-picture quality have hindered production of the powerful game machine and forced the company to halve its initial shipments in the United States to 500,000 units after its Oct. 26 debut.
The company, in partnership with Toshiba, developed and manufactures a 128-bit processor chip dubbed the "emotion engine," which serves as the heart of the PlayStation 2 game machine. Toshiba said it's on course to make 10 million of the chips.
"We have been told Sony will eventually produce 10 million units of PS2 per year," Toshiba spokesman Kenichi Sugiyama said. "We have been ready to supply 'emotion engines' for that many consoles."
Sony now produces 1 million consoles a month, lower than originally planned. It had aimed by now to be making 1.4 million units per month. The device is a successor to Sony's best-selling PlayStation game machine, which has sold more than 73 million units since its debut in 1994.
In late October, Sony said it resolved a problem found in chipmaking equipment at a plant in Nagasaki prefecture, on the southern island of Kyushu.
Boosting production is a double-edged sword for Sony because the Tokyo-based company loses money on each of the 128-bit game machines it produces. Still, Sony must satisfy a long list of game developers that are counting on the console to sell well. Revenue from high-margin game software is also a major source of earnings for Sony, maker of the Grand Turismo series of racing games.
The shortage also hurt European and U.S. game publishers such as Eidos, the U.K. maker of the "Tomb Raider" video game starring Lara Croft, and Electronic Arts, whose sales have fallen as clients waited for PlayStation 2 to buy new titles. Electronic Arts in December said it will make about 10 titles for the Xbox.
Short supply "is bad news for game software makers, especially for those counting on good sales of the machine," Tsubasa Research's Oka said. "I think Sony will probably ship enough consoles to save face."
The shipment of more consoles will benefit game retailers. Electronic Boutique of the United Kingdom said sales in stores open longer than a year surged 15 percent in December after PlayStation 2 consoles became available.
Copyright 2001, Bloomberg L.P. All Rights Reserved.
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