Sony’s war machine?

PlayStation2 slapped with export restrictions

TOKYO — PlayStation2 may be more than a toy, per Japanese trade officials, who have placed export restrictions on Sony’s dream machine because of concerns that it could be used for military purposes.

Trade officials said the high-speed graphic processing of PlayStation2 (PS2) could be used for guided missiles and this means that it falls under export restrictions under Japanese law.

News of the export restrictions combined with the massive drop on Wall Street on Friday sent Sony shares plunging on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Monday by 1,240 yen ($11.89), about 9%, to close at $115.49.

Despite the restriction, Sony said that it will be able to get approval for the planned exports of the videogame console to the United States and Europe for later this year.

“This is the first time that a dedicated entertainment product has been placed under export restriction but we do not foresee any problem with our planned exports to the United States and Europe,” a Sony Computer Entertainment spokesman said.

He added that Sony has been aware of the restrictions since the product’s launch. About 1.4 million units of PS2 have been sold in Japan since its launch March 4, and Sony Computer Entertainment expects to ship 4 million units in Japan and 3 million units each in the U.S. and Europe by March 31, 2001.

Guiding principle

The reason for the restrictions is that the graphics-processing unit can be taken out of a PS2 and theoretically used for missile guidance. A missile such as the Tomahawk needs to “see” where it is going as it proceeds on its flight path and process graphic data at high speed as it flies toward its target.

The first-generation PlayStation, which has racked up global sales of over 70 million units, stands as the most profitable product produced by Sony.

Sony Computer Entertainment accounted for about 40% of Sony’s overall profit in the last fiscal year while the movie division tallied about 12% of the electronics giant’s profits.

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