TOKYO Sony Corp's game unit said on Tuesday it was delaying the launch of its "Home" 3D virtual online community service for the PlayStation 3 game console to autumn of this year, the second such delay.
Sony last year postponed the launch of the "Home" service, which is aimed at giving users a place to interact with other PS3 users, to early this year from last autumn.
As in the "Second Life" virtual world, Home users create online characters or avatars. They can chat with other visitors, play games and customize their own rooms located in the virtual world.
Sony, locked in a three-way battle with Microsoft Corp and Nintendo Co Ltd in the global game industry, said it was delaying the launch to improve product quality, the same reason it cited for the first delay.
"We understand that we are asking PS3 and prospective PS3 users to wait a bit longer," Sony Computer Entertainment Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai said in a statement.
"But we have come to the conclusion that we need more time to refine the service to ensure a more focused gaming entertainment experience than what it is today."
Offering an innovative online service is important for the PS3, which has been running behind Nintendo's Wii and Microsoft's Xbox 360 in total unit sales.
The original PlayStation and PlayStation 2 sold more than 100 million units each worldwide, helping Sony dominate the game industry for a decade from the mid-1990s.
But its latest machine has had a slow start due to high prices and scarcity of strong game titles at the launch.
"I don't get the impression that 'Home' is something drastically new. There may be something hidden that is amazing, but I can't spot it at the moment," Okasan Securities senior analyst Masashi Morita said.
"This delay won't be a problem if it helps them offer something epoch-making, something totally different from the rest," he said.
Shares in Sony closed down 2.8 percent at 4,510 yen, underperforming the Tokyo stock market's electrical machinery index, which fell 2.2 percent.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Hugh Lawson)