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Tue, Dec 23, 2003 - Page 12 News List

Sony halts PlayStation 2 launch

GAME MAKERS WARY Popular console manufacturers like Nintendo and Sony have been hesitant to launch original products in China, due to fears of piracy


Sony Corp said yesterday it has postponed the launch in China of the new version of its PlayStation 2, the world's best-selling game console.

Two days after the planned release date, a statement on Sony's Chinese-language Web site blamed an "unfavorable environment" for the delay. It didn't elaborate or set a new launch date.

"We are working with all our power to satisfy everyone's hopes by making the PlayStation 2 available to consumers, and we deeply apologize to you for any inconvenience," the notice said.

Makers of popular console games such as Sony and Nintendo have been wary of launching products in China, despite huge potential demand, largely because of fears of piracy.

Earlier reports said that the advanced computer chips used in PlayStation 2 and some of its advanced graphics functions might have military applications that would preclude export of the devices to China under US and Japanese law, but Sony did not mention that in its announcement.

A spokesman at Sony headquarters in Tokyo said the company had not prepared in time for the China launch, but wouldn't comment further.

"We hope to deliver the product as soon as possible and are trying to get it ready," said spokesman Kenichi Fukunaga.

The original launch date fell a few days before Christmas, but it wasn't clear how the delay might hurt sales.

Many urban Chinese have begun to mark the holiday, but spending on gifts is low. China's biggest toy-buying period is the Lunar New Year holiday, which comes in January.

PlayStation 2 has been a runaway success with more than 62 million consoles sold since it hit the market in Japan in March 2000. Sony's video game subsidiary generates a large share of the Japanese electronics maker's profits.

Sony had said it planned a limited release of PlayStation 2 in five major Chinese cities -- Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chengdu.

It said it hopes to offer two to three new Chinese-language games each month but is afraid that its game software might be pirated.

Sony is already making the first version of the console, PlayStation, in China and has announced it plans to shift production of PlayStation 2 consoles there as well.

Nintendo Co has created for the Chinese market an inexpensive console with a flash memory card designed to thwart illicit copying of its technology.

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