Sony to sell slimmer PlayStations to help boost sales

Sony PlayStation 3
Image caption Sony says more than 3,300 games have been released for its console on Blu-Ray discs

Sony is launching two slimmer versions of its PlayStation 3 console to boost sales of the ageing games machine.

One version will feature 12 gigabytes of flash memory, allowing it to become the cheapest PS3 to date.

The other has a 500GB hard disk and will be sold for roughly the price of the previous 320GB model.

The PS3 has been outsold by Microsoft's Xbox 360 for 20 months running in the US - the world's biggest games market, according to data from NPD.

Demand for the portable games console - the PlayStation Vita - has also been weaker than expected, forcing Sony to cut sales forecasts.

The firm reported a 24.6bn yen ($314m; £202m) net loss for the April-June period, adding to a 456.7bn yen ($5.7bn; £3.5bn) deficit for the previous financial year.

It also faces the imminent launch of Nintendo's next-generation console.

The Wii U goes on sale in the US on 18 November and in Europe 12 days later, giving its maker an advantage in the busy Christmas shopping period.

Cutting costs

Sony says the revised models are less than half the size and weight of the original PS3 launched in 2006, and a 20-25% reduction on the previous models.

The 500GB version will go on sale on 28 September in the UK and the 12GB device on 12 October.

One industry watcher said the move would help Sony in the run-up to Christmas.

"A smaller form factor is not only more attractive to many consumers, it will cost less to manufacture, ship and stock," Piers Harding-Rolls, head of games at IHS Screen Digest, told the BBC.

"That is likely to open the door to better margins and will allow Sony a chance to be more aggressive on pricing running into 2013."

Mr Harding-Rolls added that while Microsoft had outperformed Sony in the US, the picture was different elsewhere.

According to data from IHS, Sony sold four million PS3s in the first half of 2012 across Europe, the US, Australia and Japan, while Microsoft sold three million Xbox 360s.

Family friendly?

HMV is offering the 12GB device for £185 - it charged £200 for the 160GB PlayStation Slim.

Sony indicated that the lower price might help the device appeal to families - the same "casual gamer" audience typically targeted by Nintendo.

Image caption The Diggs Nightcrawler Wonderbook allows users to investigate Humpty Dumpty's "downfall"

Sony underlined its intention to broaden its appeal to a younger audience with an earlier announcement about its forthcoming Wonderbooks - augmented reality titles that will display interactive content on a screen when the user places a compatible book in front of an attached camera.

The software includes a new Harry Potter title and a Walking With Dinosaurs release based on the BBC documentary series.

"The Nintendo brand is very strong with the family audience but Sony is throwing its weight behind marketing Wonderbooks this Christmas," said Christopher Dring, associate editor of the MCV video games trade news magazine.

"Bearing in mind Sony's hardware will also likely be cheaper and it also has other family stuff like Singstar - a karaoke game that appeals to a young audience - there could be a big fight over the next few months."

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