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US PS3 in November?

Analysts and publishing sources.

Pacific Crest Securities analyst Even Wilson has predicted that Sony's PlayStation 3 will launch in November in North America, preceded by a summer launch in Japan and followed by a March 2007 European launch.

Wilson's glance into the crystal ball, reported in Marketwatch this week, is just the latest in a string of often conflicting theories from US analysts about Sony's launch dates for the next-generation console - but is interesting since Wilson also goes on to predict unit volumes for the system.

He believes that the PS3 will launch with a million units in Japan in summer, with similar volumes seen at the US launch in November, and presumably a similar number again when the system arrives in the European market in March.

The numbers he predicts are better than those Microsoft achieved with the Xbox 360 this Christmas, when a simultaneous global launch with just 1.3 million units of the console left retail in both North America and Europe unable to fulfil pre-orders for the system.

However, the shipments would still be small by comparison with likely demand for the PS3, and if Wilson's "most likely scenario" is correct, Sony would be under immense pressure to keep a steady supply of the PS3 into the market post-launch.

A number of elements suggest that Wilson may be off the mark, however - not least comments made by Ubisoft boss Yves Guillemot at the start of this year, when he told the BBC that the PS3 was likely to launch by September in the US and November in Europe, with a Japanese launch as early as June or July.

Sources at other major publishers confirmed to GamesIndustry.biz that their understanding from Sony was that the company was absolutely committed to launching in all three territories by the end of 2006 - with a slip into 2007 to be avoided regardless of the cost.

Wilson also voiced his thoughts on the PS3's initial software line-up, saying that it would be "clearly weaker than the Xbox 360 holiday 2006 line-up" - presumably based on the fact that Xbox 360 developers will have had longer to work on the hardware by then, although Sony claims that over four thousand development kits for PS3 have already shipped.

The analyst is unimpressed by the fact that Sony has not shown off hardware and software yet, ignoring the fact that this is a standard and unavoidable practice in the videogames sector - with even Microsoft forced to show off very early software running on PowerMac based boxes at a quarter of the performance of the final Xbox 360 when it went to E3 last year.

"All we've seen are [demos] running on a box supposed to be the equivalent of the PS3," Wilson commented. "We really have no idea."

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