Sony hasn’t had the best of luck so far with their plans for the successor to the PlayStation 2. First the launch was delayed from “Spring 2006” to some time in November, and then the company had a disappointing showing at E3, with most of the attention on the PS3 focused on the US$499 to US$599 price, rather than its features.
Now an additional patch of gloom has appeared on the horizon, coming in the form of a report from analyst P.J. McNealy of American Technology Research. McNealy told a group of marketing people at a luncheon that the PlayStation 3 was the “most complex box that’s ever been built in this industry” and that the number of pieces that go into its manufacture are “even more astounding” than the over 1,700 parts that comprise the Xbox 360.
So what does this mean for Sony’s latest game console effort? According to McNealy, despite Sony’s built-in manufacturing advantages, they are going to be limited in the initial yields of the new machine. Sony, for their part, remains committed to their target of 1 million PS3s manufactured each month, with a goal of 6 million shipped by March 2007. However, as with Microsoft, Sony has decided for a simultaneous launch in North America, Europe, and Japan, and this puts additional pressure on the manufacturing process to deliver adequate supplies of the new device.
Microsoft has been down this road before, with initial shipments of the Xbox 360 selling out quickly and shortages following thereafter. It wasn’t until many months had passed that Microsoft was able to resolve their manufacturing difficulties, by which point the early adopter rush had already worn off. However, according to Microsoft, the company has met its manufacturing goals and has now shipped 5 million units of their next-generation console worldwide.
There are some indications that Sony may be aware of possible shortages in the initial shipment. Some retail stores like EBGames and GameStop are reporting that they will be receiving only 20 PS3s per store to start off with, as opposed to the Xbox 360 launch where many stores received up to 50 systems. What could be causing the shortages? With so many advanced components going into the box, it could be many things: the Cell processor, the Blu-ray drive, or even the NVIDIA RSX graphics chip, which was late going into taping and is currently underclocked in the latest PS3 development kits.
Whatever the cause, if the shortage is real it could mean big problems for Sony in the battle to retain its console supremacy. In the all-important Christmas season, if people go to buy a new PS3 and find it sold out, they may just pick up an Xbox 360 instead. Clearly Microsoft is crossing their fingers hoping just such a thing happens.