Sony says likely to meet annual PS3 sales target

TOKYO (Reuters) - Sony Corp said on Thursday its PS3 game console sales were on track to reach its target of 15 million units for the year to March 2011, with sales for the April-September half likely just above forecast.

“As of the end of August, sales look a bit better than we expected,” said Kazuo Hirai, president of Sony Computer Entertainment.

Hirai, speaking to Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the Tokyo Game Show, added that much still depended on the year-end shopping season.

His comments came days after research group NPD said retail sales of videogame equipment and software in the United States fell 10 percent in August, as the industry continues a months-long slump.

Sony faces a standoff with rival Microsoft in the coming months, as both bet on motion-gaming add-ons for their existing consoles in a bid to attract non-gamers and entice hardcore fans to buy new software.

Sony launched its Move motion controller for the PS3 on September 15 in Europe, ahead of Microsoft’s Kinect motion-sensing system, which hits store shelves on November 4.

The Kinect senses the movements of the user’s body and does not require the use of a controller, but Hirai said Sony’s experience of a similar format on the PlayStation2 showed that many games worked better with a controller.

Both companies are also vying to persuade console owners to sign up for network services, allowing upgrades and game downloads as well as communication with other gamers.

Hirai said 80 percent of the 38 million PS3 units sold globally so far were linked up to Sony’s PlayStation Network, and the company was targeting 100 percent of the consoles. That compares with 23 million users of Microsoft’s Xbox Live system as of January 2010.

Hirai said there were no plans to consolidate PlayStation Network with the company’s Qriocity network, an online movie service in the United States, set to be expanded to Europe.

Sony is gradually introducing 3D software for the PS3, which requires a 3D television and special glasses, but Hirai said 3D for its PlayStation Portable handheld console was unlikely for the time being, because the technology was not sufficiently advanced.

“We want consumers to enjoy 3D in the best possible environment,” Hirai said. “At this stage, this is only possible on the big screen, with glasses.”

Japan’s Nintendo, whose Wii console sparked the craze for motion-controlled games, is set to launch a 3D version of its handheld DS game console that can be used without special glasses, by March 2011.

Reporting by Isabel Reynolds, Antoni Slodkowski and Reiji Murai; Editing by Edwina Gibbs, Michael Watson and Will Waterman