Sony sells 70 million PlayStation 3 consoles over six rollercoaster years

The PS3 has survived delays, deep losses, software bugs, and a major hack to become a hit product for Sony

Sony said Friday it sold its 70 millionth PlayStation 3 console earlier this month, a major milestone for the game console that failed to match the popularity of its predecessor but survived a rocky history to become a hit product for the company.

The PlayStation 3 went on sale in November 2006. The console's smash-hit predecessor, the PlayStation 2, shipped over 100 million units in the six years after its launch in March 2000.

The PS 3 launched after six-month delay, and faced immediate competition from Nintendo's Wii, a far cheaper alternative that introduced the concept of motion controllers to the gaming masses. Sony's console features a custom central processor developed with IBM and Toshiba, the powerful Cell chip, that took years and millions of dollars to develop.

Initial reviews of the console were cautiously optimistic, based on its potential more than the reality of the few games available at launch, but some were critical of how its introduction was handled. PCWorld rated the PS 3 one its "Top 21 Tech Screwups of 2006," criticizing its late launch and high price.

Sony went through years of massive losses with the console, which it sold below cost initially, and issues around the PS 3 are thought be a major reason why Ken Kutaragi, the company's former game chief, stepped down.

The PS 3 was launched along with an online service, the PlayStation Network, that gained notoriety last year when it was the target of one of the largest hacks in corporate history. The device has also had software bugs that required updates from the company.

But it has now become a mainstay of the game industry, a rare hit product for Sony that is highly profitable.

The previous two PlayStations were released six years after their predecessors, so it seems ripe for an update, but Sony game head Andrew House and other executives have repeatedly declined to provide specifics for when the next PlayStation will be released. He told IDG News Service in an interview earlier this year that Sony is reaping the rewards for sticking with the PS 3 and is in no rush to sell a new machine.

"It's definitely in the harvest period, now, of its life cycle," he said.

Sony has released a new, slimmed-down version of the PS 3 for the current holiday season, which is half the volume and weight of the original. The update will compete with a completely new console from Nintendo, the Wii U.

Sony said Friday the new PS 3 "has been well received by consumers around the world," without providing specifics.

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