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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 December, 2004, 20:23 GMT
Sony launches portable games pad
The first customer to buy a PSP leaves a Tokyo electronics shop
Customers queued all night in the cold to be first to own a PSP
Sony has launched its first handheld games console, the PlayStation Portable (PSP), which it hopes will challenge Nintendo in the portable games market.

An initial 200,000 of the consoles went on sale in Tokyo on Sunday. Thousands of shoppers queued, some of them overnight, to buy the first devices.

Sony says it intends to ship three million of the consoles by March 2005.

Nintendo has already raised shipment targets for its new DS handheld console by 40% since its late November launch.

Sony has dominated the computer games market since it launched its first game a decade ago, but it has lacked a handheld console to challenge Nintendo, maker of the well-established Gameboy portable device.

Artwork of Lara Croft
Lara Croft is one of the most popular game characters on the Sony platform

The Japanese press has devoted huge coverage to the story. Radio and TV reporters waited overnight with would-be customers. One man told the NHK channel he had been queuing since mid-morning on Saturday.

Sony says the PSP has high-quality graphics to rival those normally seen on its full-size PS2 consoles and stereo sound.

As well as games, it can play music and movies.

The PSP has wireless Lan (local area network), enabling users to download characters and content and to hold group gaming sessions.

It is retailing in Japan for 19,800 yen ($188; 98). Rival Nintendo's new DS handheld console sells in the US and Japan for $150.

Sony has promised to release 21 games titles to accompany the launch by the end of this year. The firm also says it has 100 new titles in development.

Nintendo has greater production capacity, giving it a strong potential advantage in getting its device into buyers' hands.

Nintendo's goal is to ship 5 million of its new Nintendo DS handheld consoles by March 2005, compared to Sony's target of 3 million PSPs.

The device has already proved popular enough for Nintendo to raise its 2004 shipment target to 2.8 million from 2 million just one week after its 21 November launch.

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