PlayStation 'will reclaim lead'
By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website
PlayStation 3 will help Sony reclaim its position as the leading games console maker, the head of the firm's console division has said.
Speaking to BBC News, Kaz Hirai said the machine would overhaul rivals Nintendo and Microsoft within its 10-year lifecycle.
PlayStation 3 sales have outstripped those of Microsoft Xbox 360 in Europe but it lags behind in North America.
Nintendo's Wii console is the number one next-generation machine globally.
Mr Hirai said Sony was engaged in a "marathon" race with Nintendo and Microsoft.
More than 10.5 million PlayStation 3s were sold worldwide by the end of 2007. To date, in Europe more than five million PS3s have been sold.
Nintendo had shipped more than 25 million Wiis worldwide by April this year, while Microsoft reported 19 million 360s shipped by the same period.
Both firms have reported production supply problems in the past year.
I am very confident that after the 10-year lifecycle we will have the install base that we are looking for and that is obviously to be in the leadership position
Kaz Hirai, Sony
Mr Hirai said: "We've only really begun to scratch the surface with PlayStation 3 but I am confident that given the long life-cycle we have planned for the machine we are going to have a very good install base in all of the major territories.
"I am very confident that after the 10-year lifecycle we will have the install base that we are looking for and that is obviously to be in the leadership position."
Mr Hirai said Sony continued to look into the future development of consoles beyond the PlayStation 3.
He said that while new PlayStation hardware had been introduced five years into the lifecycle of the last two generations of machines, it was difficult to predict when a new PlayStation platform would emerge.
"It's very difficult to say at this point in time.
"We need to take a look at advances in technology in various areas, such as semiconductors, graphics chips, output devices, mainly TV and monitors, to see where we would like to benchmark our next generation product."
He said that Sony's investment in future console hardware technology remained important.
"And you can make the investments, for example, to the tune of the investments we made with previous consoles, because we look at this business as a 10-year lifecycle. We don't let our consoles go by the wayside after five years.
"By managing a portfolio of consoles that we have - PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3 - we are able to look at the business in totality."
Mr Hirai said the company had begun investigation of pure network gaming, without the need for a dedicated console.
"It's something we would look at. We have had a lot of discussion internally about where the road map will take us.
PlayStation 3 endured a difficult launch
"[With network gaming] we're also dependent on the network infrastructure available in all the territories we do business in.
"Some have faster broadband access than others. When you consider that content that plays on PlayStation 3 can go as high as 50GB it's going to be very difficult to deliver 50GB to consumers in some parts of the world in a timely fashion."
Because of the limitations, he said Blu-ray discs remained the "best and most efficient way to deliver content".
He said sales of PlayStation 3 would continue to be driven by games and by the line-up of titles this year.
"If you look at line-up coming out this year - Metal Gear Solid 4, Resistance 2, Motorstorm: Pacific Rift , Little Big Planet, there is a whole raft of titles between now and the end of the year which will really help fuel growth of the install base."
Mr Hirai described the launch of PlayStation 3 as "difficult" and affected by "teething problems".
"We had some challenges when we launched the PlayStation 3 in major territories. We were not able to supply North America and Japan with enough units.
"There was also some concern in the media and from customers about the lack of titles available at launch."
He added: "That situation has been remedied to the satisfaction of consumers. The software line-up is looking good for this year and certainly for the holiday period."
He said the technology inside the PlayStation 3 had been a steep learning curve for developers.
"I think they are beginning to embrace the technology and are able to express their creativity on the platform certainly more than they were able to at launch."