Sony Corp. said on Monday retailers had almost completely sold out of the PlayStation Portable on its first day in Japanese stores, marking a strong start for the company's first handheld game machine.
Sony shipped about 200,000 of the sleek, black devices to retailers ahead of the early Sunday morning launch in Japan. The PSP, which can play movies, music and games, will go on sale in Europe and North America early next year.
"We have heard that the PSP has nearly sold out nationwide," said Koichiro Katsurayama, spokesman at Sony Computer Entertainment, the group's game division. "But we have not changed our target of shipping 500,000 in Japan by the end of 2004."
Katsurayama said Sony was considering boosting production of the PSP, but acknowledged this would be difficult because it had already established schedules with components suppliers that could not be easily changed. It stood by its target of shipping 3 million PSP units worldwide by March 31, the end of Sony's business year.
Some game fans stood in line all night to be among the world's first to get their hands on the PSP, which is at the center of Sony's drive to unseat Nintendo Co. as the king of handheld game machines.
At a price of 19,800 yen ($188), the PSP went on sale 10 days after the launch of the Nintendo DS, a game machine the size of a paperback book with a wireless connection and two screens, one of which is touch-sensitive and works with a pen-like device. The DS is slightly cheaper, selling for 15,000 yen.
Analysts say both will sell well this holiday season, bringing the biggest buzz to the sector since Sony launched its PlayStation 2 (PS2) game console in 2000.
But Standard and Poor's equity analyst John Yang reckons Sony, which as of Sept. 30 had shipped about 74 million PS2 consoles, will likely gain the upper hand over the long term.
"The user who is so accustomed to PS2, which has a very high penetration rate in the world, could migrate to PSP," Yang said.
Nintendo launched the DS in the United States on Nov. 21 and in Japan on Dec. 2, in time for the holiday shopping rush, and last week raised its forecast of shipments this year by 40 percent to 2.8 million units. It expects to ship 5 million by March 31.