TOKYO -- Sony's PlayStation 3 made its highly anticipated debut to long lines in Japan today , marking the launch of what's expected to quickly become a global sellout.
Throngs of people lined up for several hours around Bic Camera, an electronics retailer in downtown Tokyo, to get their hands on one of the video game consoles. It sold out even before the store opened at 7 a.m.
Plagued with production problems, Sony Corp. has managed to ready only 100,000 PlayStation 3 machines in time for its debut in Japan. When it goes on sale in the United States next Friday, some 400,000 PS3 consoles will be available. In Europe, the sales date has been pushed to March.
The enthusiasm at Bic Camera was so great, clerks with megaphones asked the crowd to stop pushing, warning that all sales would end if there were any injuries. The retailer refused to say how many machines it had, but said it could estimate the number of buyers by the length of the line , and knew they had sold out.
Powered by the new "Cell" computer chip and supported by the next-generation video format, Blu-ray disc, the console delivers nearly movie-like graphics and a realistic gaming experience.
But game makers like Sony must recoup the exorbitant development costs for the machines by selling software, and programming its cutting-edge hardware is a costly and time-consuming task. Only five games were on sale for the PS3's Japan launch date.
Sony expects to lose $1.7 billion in its gaming division in the fiscal year through March 2007.
In an unprecedented move, Sony slashed the price for the cheaper PS3 model in Japan ahead of its launch by 20 percent to about $420 in what some critics have scorned as a desperate effort to maintain market share in the face of intense competition with Nintendo Co.'s Wii console and Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360.