SAN FRANCISCO – Sony Corp. (SNE) said Tuesday it will lower the price of its PlayStation Portable gaming device by $30 to $170 amid intense competition among game console rivals, particularly Nintendo Co.
It's the first time Sony has officially lowered suggested retail prices on the PSP since its debut in March 2005. Video game publishers and financial analysts have been urging Sony to slash hardware prices in recent quarters.
The cuts come two months after Sony's gaming unit posted a third-quarter operating loss of $443 million, largely due to hefty costs for the launch of its PlayStation 3 video game console.
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Although Sony promised business at the gaming unit would improve by the latter half of the fiscal year, the company said declining sales during the October-December period of Sony's predecessor console, the PlayStation 2, as well as the handheld PlayStation Portable and PSP game software, hurt quarterly profits at the gaming unit.
Despite being launched in 2004, the DS — which some retailers sell for as little as $130 — outsold every other console in the United States in February, registering 485,000 units sold, according to market researcher NPD Group.
Nintendo has also been a formidable player in next-generation consoles, traditionally a Sony stronghold.
With its diminutive "Wiimote" — a motion-sensitive, wrist-mounted remote control — Nintendo's Wii has been a surprise hit among kids, women and older players, catching on far beyond the "hardcore" gamer niche of young men.
The Wii sells for $250, far less than the PS3, which starts at $500.
Jack Tretton, president and chief executive of Foster City-based Sony Computer Entertainment America, said Sony's price cuts were an effort to make the game more affordable to young gamers.
"We have recently seen a steady rise in the number of teens adopting PSP as their primary handheld entertainment system, and we expect the new price will accelerate that trend," Tretton said in a statement.
Sony, which also lowered the price of its higher-end PSP Entertainment Pack from $250 to $200, will launch a print and online advertising campaign targeted at teenagers.
In late November, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) slashed prices on the PSP to $170. Although world's largest retailer didn't release sales numbers, analysts said the promotion was a success, and they were encouraged about Sony's official new prices.
"We expect a modest step-up in PSP unit sales during an otherwise seasonally slower period for the video game industry," Colin Sebastian, senior research analyst at Lazard Capital Markets in San Francisco, wrote in an investor note.