PlayStation nation

PSX expected to launch in U.S., Europe next year

Sony has unveiled the next generation of its PlayStation console, combining a videogame unit with a TV tuner, hard drive with TiVo-like capabilities, DVD burner and digital music and photo manager.

Device, dubbed PSX, comes network ready to enable online gaming. It bowed Tuesday at the Ceatec electronics show outside Tokyo. Console will go on sale in Japan later this year, with prices starting at about $720 for the smallest hard drive. It is expected to launch in the U.S. and Europe sometime next year.

With PSX’s high price and multiple capabilities, Sony is clearly betting that the future of gaming lies in convergence, with the console as hub for a number of digital media capabilities, from gaming to TV, music and photos.

Continuing Sony’s tradition of backwards compatibility, the new device will be able to play games designed for PlayStation and PlayStation 2. That’s a key advantage, as Sony controls about 75% of the U.S. gaming market and wants to keep consumers on board with each upgrade.

While Sony is bulking up, however, rival Nintendo has been gaining of late, having cut the price of its Gamecube system to just $99. Unlike PlayStation 2 and Microsoft’s Xbox, Gamecube has no online capability, with Nintendo aiming at consumers who want a simpler experience. While the console still lags far behind PlayStation, Nintendo reported a fourfold increase in sales since the price cut took place several weeks ago.

Nintendo itself is facing new competition in the handheld gaming market, which it dominates with its Gameboy. Nokia’s much-hyped N-Gage, which includes gaming and cellular phone capabilities in one device, was also launched Tuesday. Priced at $299, the N-Gage costs significantly more than a Gameboy. But Nokia is hoping consumers will pay more for an all-in-one mobile device, as N-Gage sports phone and MP3 player capabilities.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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