Sony is finalizing development work on its PlayStation 4, a games console it hopes will help it recover market share against increased competition from smartphones and rival entertainment giants such as Nintendo Co.
Sources said Sony plans to get the console into stores in time for this year's Christmas shopping season.
Andrew House, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., will announce the launch at the PlayStation Meeting 2013 in New York on Feb. 20.
The PlayStation 3, at the time an industry standard, debuted in 2006.
Specifications are as yet unavailable, but the PlayStation 4 is believed to draw on high-performance graphics chips that produce faster images with greater detail.
This could make the console suitable for cross-discipline use, possibly for downloading and playing music and videos with greater speed and fidelity than on smartphones and personal computers.
It will also have a touchpad controller, something its predecessor lacks.
Additionally, Sony wants users to share their downloaded content with other Sony devices, such as smartphones.
It will offer access to online services such as social networking sites, allowing PlayStation 4 users to pit their gaming skills against other online users.
Furthermore, pushing a dedicated "share" button will let users upload messages or images to Twitter and Facebook.
The overall package seems set to steer Sony toward a greater role in music and video distribution, particularly if it aims the product at existing users of Sony smartphones and TVs. This could provide strong revenues beyond the straight sale of consoles.
Sony says the entertainment industry is its core area of operation. It hopes the new gaming console will become a major source of revenue in the face of flagging sales of TVs.
But the climate is harsh: Sony needs to fight against new consoles from rival manufacturers and the upstart threat posed by smartphones, which have already snatched a significant market share.
Meanwhile, the overall gaming market has been shrinking in recent years. The PlayStation 3 has sold only 60 million units worldwide, compared with 102 million units of the original PlayStation and 155 million units of the PlayStation 2.
"Nobody will ever again sell more than 100 million units of a game console," said Sony Corp. President Kazuo Hirai.
The PlayStation 3 hit the market in November 2006, but the high price, greater than 60,000 yen ($640), deterred many buyers, forcing Sony into a bitter battle with Nintendo's innovative Wii, released in December 2006 at only 25,000 yen.
The initial price of the PlayStation 4 has yet to be set, but it is expected to exceed 40,000 yen.
In December, Nintendo released an updated version of its console, the Wii U, at 31,500 yen. Whichever wins the fight might depend on the PlayStation's selling price.
(This article was written by Junichiro Nagasaki and Takashi Kamiguri)
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