PlayStation 3 to hit stores on March 23 in Europe, Africa and Australia

Sony's new PlayStation 3 video game machines will go on sale in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Australia on March 23, company officials said Friday.

The 60 gigabyte model of PS3 will be priced at 599 euros, 425 British pounds, 999.95 Australian dollars, and 1199.95 New Zealand dollars, according to Sony Computer Entertainment spokesman Nanako Kato.

Initially, only the 60GB model will be available in these markets, with the lower-end 20GB version to follow later this year depending on demand, the company said in a statement dated Thursday.

The much-anticipated debut of the high-end version of the PlayStation comes as Sony, locked in a tight race with Nintendo Co. and Microsoft Corp. for the market for next-generation video consoles, has been plagued with production problems, the AP says.

Sony said it shipped 2 million PS3 machines worldwide by mid-January, falling about two weeks behind its initial shipment targets in Japan. The machine's launch in Europe was delayed until this year.

Sony is also targeting shipping 6 million PS3 machines by March 31.

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