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Sony giving away freebies to PS3 buyers

Sony is giving away freebies to woo buyers to the new PlayStation 3 video game machine whose hefty price appears to be scaring away shoppers.
Sony is giving away freebies to PS3 buyers.Mark Lennihan / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Sony is giving away freebies to woo buyers to the new PlayStation 3 video game machine whose hefty price appears to be scaring away shoppers.

The latest giveaway from the Japanese electronics and entertainment company is being promised for the Australia launch for the PlayStation 3 set for March 23 — a Blu-ray Disc version of the Sony Pictures James Bond movie "Casino Royale," for the first 20,000 Australian PS3 buyers.

The PlayStation 3 costs a hefty $790 (999.95 Australian dollars), for the 60 gigabyte hard drive version.

The console, the successor to industry leader PlayStation 2 that went on sale in November last year in the U.S. and Japan, costs $600 in the U.S.

Tokyo-based Sony Corp. has long had a proprietary reputation, and the flurry of free entertainment content doled out with the PlayStation 3 seems a bit out of character, perhaps designed to counter the perception of an overpriced product.

"They have to sweeten the deal a little bit," said Hiroshi Kamide, director of research and game expert at KBC Securities Japan in Tokyo. "The problem with the product so far is that no one has fully understood why it's so expensive."

Nintendo Co.'s surprise hit Wii is being snatched up and has been out of stock at some stores, and at $250 is widely welcomed by families as a bargain.

Free downloads of the "GranTurismo" PlayStation 3 software game — out since December for American and Japanese PS3 owners — will be available for the Australia launch, Sony said this week.

The U.S. launch also came with a free Sony movie. The first half million PS3 shipments in the U.S. included "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" in Blu-ray Disc format.

On Friday, Sony Computer Entertainment said shorter free trial downloads of a golfing game for the Japanese market will also be available next month.

Such free playable demos, intended as previews, are also available in the U.S.

In the latest Japan demo, players can try three holes of a golf game, worth about 10 minutes of playing, said company spokesman Norio Chiba.

Although Sony officials say PlayStation 3 sales are going on schedule, the machine is still a money-loser.

Sony blamed the losses in its video game operations for its faltering profits in the October-December quarter, when Sony profits slipped 5 percent to $1.3 billion (160 billion yen), largely because of PS3 startup costs.

Sony said it shipped 1.84 million PS3 machines worldwide through Dec. 31, and is sticking to its earlier target of shipping 6 million PS3 consoles by March 31. It shipped 2 million PS3 machines worldwide by mid-January, falling about two weeks behind its initial shipment targets in Japan.

Nintendo sold 3.19 million Wii machines worldwide by the end of the year, 1.25 million in the Americas, and 1.14 million in Japan.

The Kyoto-based maker of "Super Mario" and "Pokemon" games said earlier this year that it's well on its way to reaching its target of global shipment of 6 million Wii machines by March 31, the end of the current fiscal year.

Kamide, the gaming industry expert, said the PS3 needs a fuller lineup of new, attractive games to make the purchase seem worth the price.

"It's the least they can do," he said of the freebies. "If you're paying a head above everybody else for a similar product, a game machine, you want to be able to categorically say the reason why it's so expensive."