European gamers rushed to shops as new Sony gadget comes to market

Hardcore European gamers finally got their hands on the coveted Sony PlayStation Portable in the early hours on Thursday, even as Sony moves to change the sleek gaming device's software to stop hackers from adding unauthorized features.

The European launch was delayed by five months due to insufficient supply, but stores were finally allowed to start selling the device at midnight.

Hundreds of electronics and media stores throughout Europe opened their doors. In London, several dozen people queued in front of HMV and Virgin Megastore in Oxford Street, England, to pick up their pre-ordered PSP, and a Toys R Us outlet in Cologne, Germany had organized a gaming night.

In Berlin, Sony's European headquarters, no stores were open, not even its own Sony Store. But the firm said that in all other European countries dozens of stores were welcoming customers.

Following earlier launches in Japan and North America, Sony is making 1 million PSPs available for the first two weeks after the European launch. They will come on top of the five million units that have already been shipped world-wide.

Sony plans to ship 13 million PSPs in the year to next March, reports Reuters.

According to BBC, Sony has sold more than five million PSPs in the US and Japan. The company is looking to sell a million in the UK by Christmas.

For the games industry, the PSP offers a much needed shot in the arm as it is expected to tempt more people into the world of gaming.

"History suggests that the video game market is driven by new technology launches," said Simon Soffe, spokesperson for Game, Europe's largest retailer of video games.

"We've been taking orders for a long time and are geared up for a lot of demand. We expect demand will outstrip supply, at least initially."

More than 30 games titles will be available at launch, including the critically acclaimed Wipeout Pure and Ridge Racer.

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