If an Xbox 360 was out of reach last year, prepare to clutch air if you try to grab a PS3 when it launches near the end of 2006.
Wednesday morning (September 6), Sony Computer Entertainment President Ken Kutaragi said the company will halve its worldwide shipments of PlayStation 3 this year to 2 million and will launch the system in North America on November 17 with 400,000 units. In Japan, just 100,000 units will be available at launch.
Kutaragi blamed the drop on manufacturing woes, according to an interview with The Associated Press. Sony is also delaying its launch of the PS3 in Europe, Australia and elsewhere.
The Xbox 360, which became the stuff of frustrated customers and drastic eBay markups, sold about 326,000 units in its first nine days of release last November, according to the NPD sales-tracking group — a sellout that represents only a marginally tighter supply than what Sony is now promising.
Dave Karraker, a spokesperson for Sony Computer Entertainment America, painted a more optimistic scenario to MTV News, comparing the PS3 launch figure to a more proven console.
"The supply we have at launch is comparable to what was available for the PS2, not Xbox 360," he said. "That being said, people shouldn't fixate on the day-one allocation number. They should instead be more interested in the overall units available through the holidays, which will be 1 million to 1.2 million, which are significant amounts that will provide retail supply week over week with no dips in available stock."
The PS2 launched in America in October 2000 with a shipment of 500,000, a figure downgraded from 1 million due to manufacturing woes. The system has since sold more than 100 million units worldwide, handily outnumbering the competing Nintendo GameCube and the original Xbox.
Getting an Xbox 360 last year was a near-impossible quest. Many retailers began taking pre-orders for the system in the late summer, only to discover that Microsoft was not shipping enough systems to fulfill even those earliest of adopters. Shops have been more cautious this year with the PS3 and Nintendo Wii. Major game retailer GameStop isn't taking pre-orders yet. One retailer told MTV News that stores in that chain won't learn their shipping allocations for another couple of weeks.
Those who want to get a PS3 will have a handful of options: line up at stores the day pre-orders begin, line up at stores not taking pre-orders on November 16 or prepare to bargain for the inevitably sky-high eBay auctions.
As for Nintendo's next console, the Wii, a company spokesperson confirmed Wednesday that the company will ship 6 million systems between launch and the end of March (see "Wii Surprise: Nintendo Controller Lets You Bend The Rules — To An Extent"). Sony has pledged to do the same. But the spokesperson said Nintendo is not ready to announce exactly when in the final months of 2006 the Wii will ship, nor how many will be available in stores in North America when it launches.
The PS3 will launch in the U.S. on November 17, priced in two versions at $500 and $600 (see "PlayStation 3 Unveils Big Price Tag, Surprise Controller"). The launch game lineup is expected to be announced at the Tokyo Game Show, which kicks off in two weeks.