Sony sells 6.5M PS3s in Q4, posts $871.2M profit

Electronics giant back in black after months in red; PS3's sales jump by 2 million during holidays--life-to-date sales hit 33.5 million; PSP and PS2 sales slump, annual game-software sales estimate cut by 40 million units.

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After months of losses, Sony is back in the black. Following a massive restructuring that saw 16,000 jobs eliminated, the electronics giant today reported ¥79.2 billion ($871.2 million) in net income from October to December 2009. The 660.6 percent increase in profits came in spite of overall revenues rising just 3.9 percent to ¥2.24 trillion ($24.6 billion) during the quarter.

The PS3 Slim has boosted console sales for Sony.
The PS3 Slim has boosted console sales for Sony.

Sony's Networked Products and Services division, which subsumed Sony Computer Entertainment last year, also saw its fortunes improve from October to December 2009. For the quarter, it reported ¥19.4 billion ($213.4 million) in operating profit, up from a ¥5.9 billion ($65 million) operating loss during the same period the year prior. Overall operating revenue rose just 1.9 percent to ¥606.1 billion ($6.7 billion).

One big reason for Networked Products and Services' upward swing was a nearly 50 percent increase in sales of the PlayStation 3. The 120GB console's lower price point--now just $300 in the US and £250 in the UK--helped worldwide three-month sales jump by 2 million units from 4.5 million to 6.5 million units. The company also said the PS3's increased sales were coupled with "an improvement in the cost of PS3 hardware" afforded by its new slimline design, introduced late last August. International life-to-date sales of the console through the end of 2009 totaled 33.5 million.

PSP sales are declining even after the PSP Go's launch.
PSP sales are declining even after the PSP Go's launch.

Higher PS3 sales and lower PS3 costs helped offset the flagging fortunes of Sony's other two platforms. Despite the introduction of the heavily hyped, UMD-free PSP Go last October, overall PSP sales fell from 4.5 million to 4.2 million units during the last quarter of 2009. The aging PlayStation 2, now well into its ninth year, saw three-month sales slip from 2.5 million to 2.1 million units year-over-year.

Though analysts estimate that Sony still loses around $36 per PS3, the company does make money from first-party game software sales and third-party game software licensing fees. On that front, the Oct.-Dec. quarter saw 47.6 million PS3 games sold, 15 million PSP games sold, and 11.2 PS2 games sold.

As a result of improved game sales, VAIO PC profitability, and increased income from its financial services, disc manufacturing, music, and film divisions, Sony has cut its predicted annual loss in half. However, the company still expects a shortfall of ¥30 billion ($330.5 million) for its 2009 fiscal year, which ends on March 31, 2010.

In terms of game hardware, Sony now expects to sell 13 million PS3s during its current fiscal year, in line with a forecast it issued in October. However, the company drastically reduced its estimated 12-month PSP sales from 15 million to just 10 million. It revised PS2 estimates up, though, from 5 million to 7 million for the fiscal year.

Finally, Sony also took a hatchet to its October estimates of overall annual PlayStation family software sales, lowering it from 240 million units to just 200 million units. First-party games published by SCE during the period include October's Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, the just-released MAG, and the upcoming God of War III, due out mid-March.

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