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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Japan Lines Up for PlayStation 3

TOKYO -- Sony's PlayStation 3 made its highly anticipated debut in Japan to long lines on Saturday, with local stores selling out their supplies of the video game console in a pattern that's expected to be repeated around the world.

Throngs of people lined up for hours around Bic Camera, an electronics retailer in downtown Tokyo, to get their hands on one of the consoles.

"Standing in line today is the only way to make sure I got one," said Takayuki Sato, 30, among the buyers who queued up at Bic Camera, snaking around the building in a complete circle.

But would-be buyers were turned away even before the store opened at 7 a.m. Short supplies were reported elsewhere, too.

Plagued with production problems, Sony has managed to ready only 100,000 PlayStation 3 machines in time for its debut in Japan. When it goes on sale in the United States on Nov. 17, some 400,000 PS3 consoles will be available there. The console's European launch has been pushed back until March.

It was not immediately clear whether the console sold out at all retailers, and Sony said information would not be available for several days.

Ken Kutaragi, the head of Sony's game unit known as the "father of the PlayStation," said he was thrilled by the reception to the PS3.

"I am so happy so many people are waiting," he said in an informal countdown ceremony at Bic Camera.

Sony will be losing money for some time on each PS3 sold because of the high costs for research and production that went into the highly sophisticated machine.

Game makers, including Sony, must recoup the exorbitant development costs for the machines by selling software, and programming the PS3's cutting-edge hardware is an expensive and time-consuming task. Only five games were on sale for the PS3's Japan launch date.

Sony expects to lose $1.7 billion in its gaming division in the fiscal year through March 2007.

The red ink is coming at a time when the Japanese electronics and entertainment company, known for the Walkman portable audio player and "Spider-Man" movies, is struggling to stage a comeback.

In an unprecedented move, Sony slashed the price for the cheaper PS3 model in Japan ahead of its launch by 20 percent to about $420 in what some critics have scorned as a desperate effort to maintain market share in the face of intense competition with Nintendo's Wii console and Microsoft's Xbox 360.

Prices vary by retailer, but the more expensive model, with a 60-gigabyte drive, sells in Japan for about $510.

"It's a bit expensive, but I really wanted it," said Hirotoshi Iwadate, 23, a hospital worker, clutching a big bag with his new PS3 after standing in line since 10 p.m. Friday. "I came here straight from work."

Tatsuya Mizuno, analyst for Fitch Ratings in Tokyo, believes it will be hard for Sony to maintain the 70 percent market share domination it has built with previous PlayStation consoles, and Sony will likely lose some of that market to rivals, especially Nintendo.

Sony has sold more than 200 million PlayStation series machines over the years.

The PS3 was initially promised for worldwide sales for spring this year but was postponed in March to November. In September, the European sales date was delayed by another four months.