Sony Computer Entertainment Inc (SCEI) has promised better hardware and software tools to help developers make games for the company's upcoming PlayStation 3 games console, the company said Thursday.

SCEI will release two upgraded evaluation systems that will help developers more accurately gauge how their games will perform on the console, according to SCEI president and group chief executive officer Ken Kutaragi.

The evaluation systems are versions of hardware made available for developers well ahead of the model that will go on sale. The nearer they are to the real thing, the easier it gets for developers to make games. The PlayStation 3, which won't be in shops until next year, will use a powerful processor called Cell and a graphics chip developed by SCEI and Nvidia Corp. to deliver very realistic graphics, according to SCEI.

Demand for evaluation systems has surged since SCEI demonstrated the console at May's E3 meeting in Los Angeles, Kutaragi said. To meet this demand, SCEI will release a new version of its evaluation system, code-named Cytology, in August. The system was first released earlier this year, he said.

The upgrade uses a 2.4GHz version of the Cell processor and not the 3.2GHz version that will be used in PlayStation 3. But it will have Nividia's GeForce 7800 graphics chip, more powerful than the 6800 chip used in the current version of Cytology, SCEI said.

There will also be a lot more systems available at the end of the year. Presently, hundreds are being released each month. The company plans to have 3,000 available in October and more than 3,000 in November, Kutaragi said.

The next major upgrade will be in December. The systems released then will be very close to the actual PlayStation 3 console, according to Nanako Kato, a spokeswoman for SCEI in Tokyo.

As well as using the 3.2GHz Cell processor, the evaluation systems will have the RSX graphics chip that's being developed specially for the console, a hard disk, and a Blu-ray Disc drive that will play CDs and DVDs, Kato said.

Because the PlayStation is new, developers need help to cut time and costs to make games. Along with improving the quality and availability of the hardware kits, SCEI is improving the software development kit for the console through three licensing agreements and a purchase, it said.

The licences with Epic Games, Ageia Technologies and Havok give developers access to tools that will help simplify and improve the making of more realistic and natural images, SCEI said.

The company also said it will buy SN Systems, a games programming tool supplier in Bristol, England, for an undisclosed price.

SN Systems' development tools will also help make it easier to make games, SCEI said.