Profits at the division surged nearly 135%

It may have taken awhile — make that two years — but the PlayStation 3 is turning into a reliable moneymaker for Sony, with the videogame console helping the conglom’s networked products and service group more than double its profits during the last three months.

Operating profits at the division surged nearly 135% to $564 million, thanks to a reduction in the costs required to build the PS3.

Company sold 6.3 million of the consoles and about 58 million PS3 games during the third quarter, which ended Dec. 31.

Car-racing title “Gran Turismo 5″ was a top seller, moving more than 5.5 million copies in 12 days.

Sony expects to sell 15 million PS3s through its fiscal year, which wraps up at the end of March, or 2 million more than it sold in 2009.

That’s an improvement from two years ago, when the division, which oversees the games group, reported an operating loss of $338 million.

But sales for the group still fell 6.4% to nearly $7 billion, a story that wound up repeating itself across Sony’s other arms.

Price drops on Sony’s line of Bravia flatscreen TVs and Cybershot compact digital cameras, as well as an unfavorable exchange rate, sent overall operating profits down 5.9% to nearly $1.7 billion for the Japanese electronics giant during the quarter, while its sales slid 1.4% to $27.2 billion.

The company’s core consumer products biz took the biggest hit, with profits plunging 47% to $331 million, although sales rose 4.2% to $13.5 billion.

Over at the film division, profits sunk 67% to $58 million as box office and homevideo earnings fell nearly 27% to $1.8 billion. “The Social Network” was the primary performer in theaters during the period, compared with Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” and “2012″ in the latter months of 2009.

Sales at the conglom’s music biz declined 14.5% to $1.7 billion from the ongoing decline of CD sales, hurting profits, which were off 16% to $241 million.

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