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Analysts: Sony PlayStation 3s Sit on Retailer Shelves as Nintendo Wiis Sell Out

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Sony's PlayStation 3 home video-game console. (Sony)

More than half of a group of surveyed stores had Sony Corp.'s (SNE) PlayStation 3 in stock, while Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s new Wii was sold out, an analyst said on Tuesday in a report signaling demand for the market leader's new console may be soft.

"Our channel checks yesterday of 52 retail stores, from boutiques to big-box retailers, showed that 28 of the 52 stores had PS3 consoles in stock, while none had Wii consoles in stock," American Technology Research analyst Paul-Jon McNealy said in the research note.

He added that those stores with PS3s in stock typically had units numbering in the low single digits, with only one major retailer having 60-plus machines in stock.

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McNealy said availability in stores of PS3s, which are more expensive than Wiis, does not necessarily indicate slack demand and that he would continue to monitor PS3 inventories closely.

Sony spokesman Dave Karraker said the company is airlifting more than 100,000 systems into the United States every week, which is why units can be found at retail.

"It isn't because demand has weakened, it is because we have kept the supply pipeline moving," Karraker said.

New video game consoles tend to be in very short supply for months after their release as demand for the latest new machines outweigh manufacturers' ability to turn them out.

Supplies of Sony Corp.'s PS3 have been limited in the weeks since its mid-November launch and units sitting on store shelves could indicate weak demand for the powerful new machine, which boasts cutting-edge graphics and the company's Blu-ray Disc high-definition DVD player.

By comparison, shortages of Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Xbox 360, released in mid-November 2005, lasted well into early 2006.

Nintendo Co. Ltd. sold 604,200 Wiis in the United States in December, topping Sony's PS3 sales of 490,700. Sales of the Xbox 360, which has been available for a year longer than the PS3 and Wii, hit 1.1 million in December, retail market research firm NPD said last week.

Sony last week said it shipped 1 million PS3s to North America by the end of 2006, hitting its target by diverting some units from Japan. The high-end version of the console retails for $600 in the United States.

The Japanese company, which saw its PlayStation 2 dominate the last console cycle, said on Tuesday it had shipped 1 million PS3s to Japan and that global shipments reached 2 million in about two months after the launch, compared with its original target of hitting the figure by the end of December.

The PS3 launch was beset by manufacturing delays and speculation is rising the company will fall far short of its 6 million global shipment target by March.