Gaming sequel to launch at E3 confab

The vidgame console wars should heat up on Oct. 26. That’s when Sony plans a Stateside bow for PlayStation 2, the souped up sequel of its flagship PlayStation, the media and electronics giant said Wednesday on the eve of the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.

The E3 vidgame confab kicks off today, featuring the latest vidgame titles and hardware to hit the market.

The much-anticipated and much-hyped device is a combination vidgame console that features better graphics than its predecessor and rivals, a DVD player and an audio CD player that also offers high-speed Internet capabilities.

Devices will sell for $299 — the same price as the original PlayStation when it was released five years ago. Overseas, the PlayStation 2 retails for $379.

Glitches fixed

There will be some differences between the PlayStation 2 that is on sale now in Japan and the one that will be available in the U.S. this fall.

The North American PlayStation 2 will not require a separate memory card to operate the DVD player. It is this memory card that was widely reported to have glitches in the version of the console that was released in Japan.

Although they will connect to the ‘Net, the new devices will not come equipped with a built-in modem or hard drive. However, the North American devices will include a bay in the back to include those offerings, to be sold separately later.

Industry pundits expect sales should be brisk in the U.S., considering that Sega’s pricey Dreamcast launch has sold over 2 million units since its bow in November. Microsoft’s own vidgame console, X-Box, will hit U.S. retailers next year.

Sony plans to initially ship 1 million PlayStation 2s to 20,000 North American retailers. By next March, Sony expects an additional 2 million units to be shipped stateside. The original PlayStation has sold 71.8 million units worldwide, making it the most popular vidgame console to date.

Nearly 2 million of the devices have already sold in Japan since its release in March.

“PlayStation 2 will revolutionize both the how and what of computer entertainment,” said Kazuo Hirai, prexy and chief operating officer of Sony Computer Entertainment America. “PlayStation 2 is not the future of the videogame entertainment. It’s the future of entertainment, period.”

Dolphin to make splash

Separately, close Sony rival Nintendo of America on Wednesday said that its next generation vidgame console, the Dolphin, will start selling in Japan later this year and in the U.S. in 2001.

Beyond saying that the IBM computer chip that powers the Dolphin is complete, Nintendo execs were reluctant to offer details about the console.

The machine is expected to be unveiled at the SpaceWorld confab on Aug. 25 in Tokyo.

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