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Sony to ship 3m PSPs by March '05

Shipment targets hint at now-traditional launch shortages.

The latest financial report from Sony has revealed shipment projections for the PlayStation Portable launch period, with the company planning to have three million consoles on the market by March 2005.

That period covers the first three months of the console's lifespan - from its launch in mid-December in Japan through to the end of Sony's financial year on March 31st - and probably incorporates projections for both the US and European launches of the system.

Although no firm date has yet been given for launches outside Japan (and even the Japanese date is still a somewhat fuzzy "mid to late December" target), Sony has pledged to ship the handheld unit, which was originally planned for a simultaneous worldwide launch, as early as possible in 2005.

That probably means a Q1 launch - not least because that will push the global roll-out of the console onto Sony's 04/05 financial report, rather than spreading it over two financial years, which will make the beancounters, and indeed shareholders, much happier.

Three million units may seem like a lot, but spread around three global launches the figure is less impressive. Allowing for a larger allocation to the United States, you're probably looking at less than a million units each for Europe and Japan - not a bad figure, but low enough to ensure that the demand for the device described famously by SCE boss Ken Kutaragi as the "Walkman for the 21st century" will outstrip supply at launch.

While the three million figure is probably based entirely in the company's manufacturing capacity for the portable console - if they could make more, they would - there's also a question mark over whether launch shortages would actually be a disadvantage anyway. Although many consumers were annoyed by the shortages of the PS2 at launch, stories of huge queues outside electronics retailers and consoles selling for massively inflated prices on eBay won Sony the sort of mainstream media publicity that money can't buy - and cemented the PlayStation 2 in the minds of consumers as one of the most desirable items of the holiday season.

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