SAN FRANCISCO – Sony Corp. (SNE) is on track to ship 2 million PlayStation 3s to North American stores by the end of March, and expects shortages of the video game console to have completely eased by May, a top executive said on Tuesday.
"April or May is when we feel like we're going to catch up to demand and have product fully in stock across North America and stay there," said Jack Tretton, chief executive of Sony Computer Entertainment America.
Asked about widespread reports on video game Web sites that stacks of unsold PlayStation 3s are a common sight in many electronics shops, Tretton told Reuters in an interview that the console was still out of stock in some areas three months after its November launch.
"It's a testament to the fact that we've been able to manufacture and ship units on a greater pace than any previous console," Tretton said.
"Our goal is to fill shelves across the United States. Our goal is not to have empty shelves, it's to have full shelves. If we have empty shelves, that's one less consumer who could have bought a PlayStation 3," Tretton said.
Sony's PlayStation 3 is the cornerstone of the consumer electronics giant's strategy to dominate home entertainment.
The PlayStation 3 — which costs $500 or $600 depending on features — has a hard drive to store game data and music, and can play DVDs using Sony's Blu-ray high-definition technology.
But the machine faces stiff competition from Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Xbox 360, which launched a year earlier and has an extensive system for online play, and Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s Wii, which features a unique motion-sensitive controller.
Consumers and analysts have praised the PlayStation 3's graphical prowess and potential, but they have also raised concerns about its high price, a weak line-up of current games and what has been perceived as arrogance on Sony's part about the desirability of its flagship product.
"The PS3's biggest opponent right now is itself. It's really just competing against its own PR," said Jeremy Dunham, PlayStation editor at entertainment Web site IGN.
"The PS3's problem right now is there have been a lot of broken promises. It has a lot of things to overcome, but the brand name, the franchises and good exclusives ... all should generate interest," Dunham said.
Tretton, who helped Sony launch the original PlayStation in North America in 1995, said Sony was on track to ship 2 million PlayStation 3s to retailers by the end of March.
"We're in pretty good shape to do that. The early returns are quite favorable," Tretton said.
In January, Sony sold 244,000 PlayStation 3s, compared to 294,000 for the Xbox 360 and 436,000 for the Wii.
The company has said its target is to ship 6 million PS3s worldwide by the end of March.
Shares in Sony fell 5.8 percent in Japan, hit by a surge in the yen and a sell-off in global markets.