Sony halves charges for PlayStation 3 software development kit

Sony halved the fees it charges for a software development kit for the PlayStation 3 video game machine Monday to encourage outside designers to make more games for the struggling console.

Sony Corp.'s gaming unit, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., said prices for the development package for the PlayStation 3 will be reduced to US$10,250 in North America, 950,000 yen (US$8,600; EUR 5,900) in Japan and EUR 7,500 (US$11,250) in Europe.

The move follows the price cuts on the PS3 around the world that the company announced last month in an attempt to woo buyers.

Tokyo-based Sony will also strengthen backup support for making new games for the PS3 in an effort to make the machine more popular, it said in a statement.

Although its predecessor the PlayStation 2 dominated the gaming market, the PS3 has struggled against the hit Wii console, the rival offering from Nintendo Co., which makes Pokemon and Super Mario games.

Boosting PS3 sales is crucial for Sony's overall business strategy because it also supports the Blu-ray disc next-generation video, which is vying with the rival HD-DVD format.

The Wii has succeeded in drawing people not usually accustomed to playing electronic games, including the elderly, by offering easier-to-play games that use a wandlike handheld device for the remote controller.

Sony has said that sales have improved since the price cuts on the machine in the U.S., Japan and Europe. The 80-gigabyte version PS3 now sells for about US$499, down from US$599.

There have been no price cuts on the Wii, which sells for about US$249.99 in North America, EUR 249.00 (US$370) in Europe and 25,000 yen (US$230; EUR 160) in Japan.

It is generally more difficult and expensive to create games for sophisticated machines like the PS3, which is packed with cutting-edge technology and is driven by the powerful Cell chip. But machines won't sell unless there is a variety of games that can be played on them.

Game developers that had previously designed products for the PlayStation 2 are now increasingly making Wii versions of the games.

By October, Nintendo had shipped 13.2 million units worldwide of the Wii, which went on sale late last year. Nintendo is expecting to sell 17.5 million Wiis by the end of this fiscal year, or March 31, 2008.

Sony had sold 5.6 million PS3s worldwide as of the end of September, company spokesman Daisuke Nakata said. The console went on sale late last year in Japan and the U.S. and in March in Europe.

The PS3 has also lagged behind the Xbox 360 machine from U.S. software maker Microsoft Corp. Microsoft has sold 13.4 million Xbox 360 consoles over the last two years.

Last month, Microsoft slashed Xbox 360 prices in Japan by about 13 percent. The 39,795 yen (US $360; EUR 246) Xbox 360 now sells for 34,800 yen (US$310; EUR 210).

Sony's price cuts have helped PS3 sales in recent weeks, raising hopes the machine may be catching up ahead of the critical holiday shopping season.

Japan sales of the PS3 beat the Wii for the first time in the week from Nov. 5 through Nov. 11, with 55,924 PS3 machines sold vs. 34,546 Wiis, according to Media Create Co., a Tokyo think-tank that tracks such numbers.

Sony Chief Executive Howard Stringer said last week that U.S. PS3 sales more than doubled in the weeks after the price cut.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova