TOKYO -Sony’s new PlayStation 3 can’t play some of the games designed for previous generations of the popular console, the latest misstep for the stumbling electronics company as it faces off in a crucial, three-way war with Nintendo and Microsoft.
Sony Corp (NYSE:SNE – news)., which has fallen behind in key products like flat-panel TVs and digital music players, badly needs a best-seller in the PS3. The console went on sale here to hoards of eager fans over the weekend, ahead of its U.S. release on Friday.
On Tuesday, the company acknowledged the console won’t run some of the 8,000 titles designed for previous PlayStations – even though the PlayStation 3 was billed as being fully compatible with older-generation games.
For instance, the PS3 might not play background music to the popular “Tekken 5” combat game, and some scenes from the “Gran Tourismo” racing game might freeze, according to Sony. The game “Suikoden III” can’t read data from a first-generation PlayStation, while a virtual gun in one of the “Biohazard” games won’t fire properly.
Some older games won’t run on the PS3 at all, according to Sony Computer Entertainment spokesman Satoshi Fukuoka. Online upgrades of the PS3 software will be offered, but it’s unlikely that all the problems will ever get fixed, he said.
Fukuoka insisted that the company anticipated the incompatibilities and outlined them on its Japanese Web site on Nov. 11, when PS3 hit stores here. Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox 360, which debuted last year, has had similar problems with older games.
The PS3’s compatibility problem is the latest in a series of setbacks for the console, which will compete with Nintendo Co.’s Wii and the Xbox 360. The Wii goes on sale Sunday in the U.S.
Sony’s new console was initially promised for worldwide sales for spring this year but was postponed in March to November, and the European sales date has been delayed by another four months. Production problems have also meant only 100,000 PlayStation 3s were available for its debut in Japan over the weekend.
Sony also slashed the price for the cheaper PS3 model in Japan ahead by 20 percent to about $420 in what some critics described as a desperate effort to maintain its dominant market share. The more expensive model with a 60-gigabyte hard drive will cost about $600 in the U.S.
Demand in Japan has been strong. Unlike the lukewarm response here to Microsoft’s Xbox 360, fans have snapped up the PS3, which is powered by the new “Cell” computer chip and supported by the next-generation Blu-ray video disc format to deliver nearly movie-like graphics.
Sony, led by Welsh-born American Howard Stringer, has a lot riding on the PS3. The once-pioneering electronics and entertainment company known for the Walkman portable audio player and Vaio laptops is in dire need of a hit.
Sony’s brand image also has been badly tarnished by a massive global recall of lithium-ion batteries for laptop computers, which affected almost every major laptop maker in the world, including Dell Inc., Apple Computer Inc. and Lenovo Group Ltd.
Last month, Sony lowered its forecast for its fiscal 2006 group net profit by 38 percent to $680 million, citing costs for the battery recall and PS3 expenses, including the production problems and price cut.