Sony officials say the disasters may delay the release of their NGP handheld, with the system releasing in just one region of the world this
year instead of all three. That could give Nintendo and Apple a chance to cement a solid lead in an increasingly competitive space.
Jack Tretton, president of Sony Computer Entertainment America, told Bloomberg that production problems related to the March 11 quake could force the company to scale back its launch plans. Tretton, it's worth noting, did not indicate that any final decisions have been made about the system's rollout -- and declined to say whether the company would first offer the device in North America, Europe or Japan.
Sony's a latecomer to this round of the handheld wars. Nintendo is expected to have at least an eight-month headstart with the just-released 3DS, regardless of how the launch schedule works out. And Apple will likely have a fifth generation iPhone on the market by the time the NGP hits shelves.
The system earned positive buzz at its January introduction, however. The NGP will feature a 5-inch OLED touch-screen display (a substantially brighter and clearer display panel than LCD or LED) as well as a rear touch panel, WiFi and 3G wireless connectivity, motion sensors, rear and front-facing cameras and dual analog sticks.
While the exact launch lineup has not yet been announced, Sony has shown footage from such PS3 favorites as "Killzone," "Resistance," "LittleBigPlanet," "Uncharted" and "Metal Gear Solid 4" playing on the system.
Tretton's comments notwithstanding, there appears to be some division within the company about whether the system will, in fact, be delayed.
The day after Tretton spoke with Bloomberg, Japan's top business newspaper The Nikkei quoted Satoshi Fukuoka, spokesman for Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide, as
saying the disasters will not push out the launch of the NGP — and that the
company plans to stick to its original plan of releasing the NGP "in steps" this year.
Expect Sony to clear up the confusion -- and announce firm launch dates -- at E3 this June.
- Jack Tretton