Japanese analysts weigh in on next-generation consoles

Overseas analysts ponder release dates, success, and prices of the Revolution, PlayStation 3. Xbox 360 still seen as a contender.

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The latest issue of Famitsu features comments from Japanese analysts regarding next-generation game consoles, many of which seem to echo predictions made by analysts from the US.

Daiwa Institute of Research senior analyst Eiji Maeda predicts the PlayStation 3 will be released in Japan between April and June, but the console will not have much of a third-party lineup until summer or fall. Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Jay Defibaugh (who's currently working in Credit Suisse's Tokyo branch) predicts a similar release period for the PS3, sometime between May and June.

While Sony still has its PS3 launch set for spring, the analysts predict that the console will come out a bit later since the console's games are behind in development. The PS3 is reportedly difficult to develop for, and while there are 71 developers currently working on 102 games, only eight titles have been announced for release in 2006, with just two slated for spring.

Daiwa's Maeda predicts the PS3 is likely to hold the top share in the next-generation console war, but he cites the lack of launch titles as one of the factors that may affect its sales in 2006. Maeda also says the PS3's Blu-ray drive isn't as strong a sales point as the PlayStation 2's DVD drive. Back in 2000, consumers were drawn to the PS2 because it was also a DVD player, eliminating the need to buy a then-expensive stand-alone player. Another point cited by Maeda is the system's price. Maeda predicts that the PS3 will be priced in the 40,000 yen range ($343) at the lowest, while Nintendo's Revolution will be 30,000 yen ($257) at its highest. He also believes that by the time the PS3 comes out, Microsoft will likely have dropped its price on the Xbox 360.

With regard to the Revolution, Famitsu turns to IT journalist Hiroshige Gotoh. Gotoh believes the Revolution has the possibility of succeeding in the next-generation game war because of its innovation and its unique controller. He explained that the console's uniqueness could still match up against machines with higher specs, much like the way the DS has been outselling the PSP.

So when will the Revolution come out? Nintendo president Satoru Iwata recently told Sankei Journal that his company will need to release the console by Thanksgiving in America to take advantage of the busy shopping season. However, Maeda predicts that the Revolution could come out in Japan as early as June. Maeda also said that the machine would still have a larger launch lineup than the PS3, even if it's released that soon.

Credit Suisse's Defibaugh commented that the Xbox 360's sales in Japan were predicted to be low, but its actual performance was even lower. He thinks that the Japanese market will be dominated by the PS3 if the Xbox 360 continues to see sluggish sales in the country.

Daiwa's Maeda says that Microsoft isn't out of the race yet; the company had released its console half a year before its competitors, which gives it an upper hand in mass production and cost cutting.

Defibaugh and Maeda both think the PlayStation 3 will have half of the market in the worldwide next-generation console war by the end of 2006, followed by the Xbox 360 at 30 percent, and the Revolution at 20 percent.

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