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Rumours were sweeping the Japanese financial market today that Sony may delay the launch of its upcoming PlayStation 3 console. This has set off alarm bells in the sensitive Japanes electronics industry.

Rumours were sweeping the Japanese financial market today that Sony may delay the launch of its upcoming PlayStation 3 console. This has set off alarm bells in the sensitive Japanese electronics industry.

Reports suggest that Sony could postpone the release of the new video-game system by as much as a year from its currently expected date of May 2006. Merrill Lynch said in a research note to brokers that the announcement if true could hurt Sony significantly. With Microsoft having launched the Xbox 360 last November and Sony predicting a “spring” launch for the PlayStation 3, many in the industry were hoping to see Sony’s launch as early as March.

According to the Street.com financial web site the chances of that happening now look slimmer. If the PlayStation 3 were really coming out next month, you’d expect to hear more about it from distributors and retailers — not to mention Sony itself, analysts say. “I don’t see how they could possibly launch in any market prior to June, and even that’s pushing it,” says Michael Goodman, who covers the video-game industry as an analyst for the Yankee Group, a market research firm.

On the surface, that would seem to be bad news for Sony and for video-game publishers. A yearlong delay would give the Xbox 360 another holiday selling season to establish itself as the leading next-generation platform before Sony enters the market.

For the game publishers, which are already struggling through a rough transition from old game technology to the new, the delay could further postpone the payoff for their investments in developing games for the new systems. But some analysts and investors say worries about a delay are a bit overblown.

“At this point, it’s premature to think that [a delay] could have much of an impact,” says James Lin, an industry analyst for the Simba Group, a consulting firm.

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