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Sony's Trojan Horse Only at a Trot?

21 Jan, 2007 By: Stephanie Prange

What a difference a month makes. Before the holidays and after its Nov. 17 debut, nary a Sony PlayStation 3 could be found. Folks who did get their hands on them were selling them for thousands over the list price on eBay, and at least one shooting was reportedly linked to a fight over the in-demand console.

In January, things couldn't be more different. Most retailers seem to have the new gaming device in stock (see story, cover). In my Jan. 12 check of a Sony Style store in Costa Mesa, Calif., a clerk actually brought one $600 model out and was ready to sell it to me. The local GameStop had 11 PS3s available. A few days later, the Sony Style store sold out of its supply, but a shopper chased me out of the store to tell me she had one in her trunk she was returning to Best Buy and asked me if I'd like to buy it. In the space of a week, I had three opportunities to buy a PS3.

The NPD Group sales numbers show the PS3 lags behind other next-generation consoles, selling 687,300 following its Nov. 17 debut. That compares to Microsoft Xbox 360's 4.5 million unit installed base and Wii's 1.1 million. Granted, Wii is not exactly an apples-to-apples competitor (it has no high-def movie playback option) and the Xbox 360 got a year-long head start. But now that PS3s are widely available, Sony's Trojan horse in the living room seems to be traveling there at less than a gallop.

As impediments to its adoption, analysts cite the lack of a “killer ap” game and the console's high price ($500 to $600) compared to competitors. The Xbox 360 is only $400, albeit without the $200 HD DVD add-on, and the Wii, at only $250, is the cheapest next-generation console. Also, analysts say Blu-ray Disc high-def movies aren't exactly taking off.

Blu-ray Disc supporters at this year's Consumer Electronics Show held up the launch of the PS3 as a deciding factor in the impending victory of Blu-ray Discs, the thing that would push the format over the top in its battle with rival HD DVD. But if the PS3 doesn't pick up some sales speed, the format war could be far from over. The studios have placed a big bet on this Sony Trojan horse — a device designed to become the fulcrum of the home entertainment experience — and they need a winner.

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