Sony aims for PS3 holiday sales boost

Sony says it still has a large number of PlayStation 3 consoles to sell in Canada and hopes that special features such as 3D and exclusive games such as Gran Turismo 5 will help it move units.

Sony says it still has a large number of PlayStation 3 consoles to sell in Canada and hopes that special features such as 3D and exclusive games such as Gran Turismo 5 will help it move units.

"We've got a ways to go," said Matt Levitan, marketing manager for Sony Computer Entertainment Canada, at the company's holiday preview event in Toronto on Tuesday. "But if you look at the history of our consoles, right around now — year four, five and six — is when it really takes off."

Sony has sold about 1.5 million PS3 consoles in Canada since the device launched four years ago. In contrast, the company has sold about five million units of its PlayStation 2 predecessor, which launched in 2000.

Globally, the PS3 got off to a slow start, largely because of the basic console's hefty price tag of around $500 US. Sony is in third place in the current round of console wars with about 38 million sold, trailing Nintendo's Wii with about 74 million and Microsoft's Xbox 360 with 41 million.

Levitan said sales of the PS3 have picked up as its price has come down — it now sells for about $300 — and that Sony hopes to double its installed base in Canada over the next year.

The company is pegging its key holiday season to three selling points: 3D, Gran Turismo 5 and its recently launched Move motion-controller.

Sony is among a number of consumer electronics manufacturers betting its future on 3D, and it is the only company that is producing both the content in the form of movies, television and games, and also hardware in the form of televisions, Blu-Ray players and video game consoles.

The company's holiday gaming fortunes may have received a boost from a surprise announcement on Tuesday by Activision. The game developer said the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops, expected to be one of the biggest-selling games of the year when it is released on Nov. 9, will be playable in 3D. A representative of the company said that while the 3D mode will work on the Xbox 360, it has been optimized to look better on the PS3.

A spokesperson for Activision later retracted that statement and said the 3D mode will look the same on each platform.

Sony is also banking on the eagerly awaited Gran Turismo 5, the latest in the long-running PlayStation-exclusive series that has sold more than 56 million units over its history. The car racing game, due for release on Nov. 2, will also have a 3D mode as well as online multiplayer for the first time.

More to come in new year

While the holiday season is integral to the bottom line for all companies in the industry, Levitan said Sony is holding back on a number of other big releases until the new year. Killzone 3, the latest in the popular first-person shooter series, is being released in February, while LittleBigPlanet 2 — the sequel to what many critics hailed as the best game of 2008 — hits stores in January.

"What we've learned in the last little while is you can have a huge hit any month of the year," he said. "These are the biggest games of the year launching in 'off' months, technically. There are no off months anymore in this industry. It balances it out, so gamers don't have to rush to finish off all these games and then sit through a drought."

Levitan also said demand for the Move, the motion-controlling wand launched in September, has been brisk with about 80 per cent of Canadian stock sold out. The most popular release for the add-on so far, he said, has proven to be EyePet, a game that allows players to care for and tend to animals.

The Move is designed to compete with Nintendo, which popularized motion-sensing games with its Wii console, and Microsoft's Kinect system, which is launching in November. Levitan said the Move has an advantage over the others because it incorporates the handheld controller of the Wii with the motion-sensing cameras of the Kinect. 

"It's the best of both worlds," he said. "It can do more specific actions that the other two can't, which will allow us to do games in other genres such as fighting games [and role-playing games] that we're not seeing across other devices."