EA commits to PSP, delivers predictions for price point and launch

Eight to 12 PSP games expected during fiscal 2005.

Sony's PlayStation Portable is set to enjoy significant software support from Electronic Arts, according to statements made on a conference call where the publisher also outlined its expectations for the launch of the device.

"I would imagine we would do something between eight and 12 PSP titles in the fiscal year (2005)," EA chief executive Larry Probst told the conference call, although the company did not reveal whether it planned to support the device with launch software when it arrives next Christmas.

EA expects PSP to be released worldwide in late November or early December, a timescale which is in line with Sony's own official projections, and anticipates that around 3 million units of the device will be shipped by the end of Sony's financial year in March 2005.

Interestingly, Probst stated that EA's current assumption is that the device will sell for between $199 and $249 at US retail - placing the Japanese price point at between 20,000 and 26,000 Yen, significantly lower than the 50,000 Yen ballpark figure being bandied about by Japanese retailers earlier this month.

That figure also translates into a much, much lower Sterling price than expected - around £150 at the top end of the EA estimate, as compared to the "closer to £200 than £300" comment made by Sony Europe boss Chris Deering a few weeks ago. Of course, these figures are somewhat distorted by the weakness of the US Dollar on the currency markets at the moment, but nonetheless, EA's estimates are significantly lower than those offered elsewhere so far.

Probst also expects PSP software to retail for a lower price than normal software, with a $39.99 (£22) price tag proposed for games on the system. To date Sony has given no indication of its plans for the price of PSP software, although it has been widely expected that it will not be significantly cheaper than full-price home console software.

Regarding the next generation of home console hardware, Probst stated that the first announcements could come from the platform holders soon. "I think possibly one of them may have something to say about next-generation consoles in the next three to five months," he said. "We're still thinking that 2006 is the launch year, and who knows, somebody may surprise us with an earlier launch period."

It's widely expected that Microsoft will announce something about the next-generation Xbox at GDC this year - although what exactly the company will announce is a matter of debate, with expectations ranging from a simple statement of intent through to the rather unlikely possibility of a full unveiling of specifications and hardware.

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