Sony Computer Entertainment (SCEI) today kicked off a three-day preview for the Japanese public of its new PlayStation2 console, two weeks before it is due to go on sale.
The PlayStation Festival, being held alongside the Macworld Tokyo show in Makuhari just south of Tokyo, opened this morning to give members of the press and gaming industry a chance to use the system and some of the new software titles that will be available in the next few months. The event opens to the public for two days from tomorrow.
Hundreds of the machines were set up to allow attendees to try some 27 game titles that will go on sale over the coming months.
The event kicks off a two week promotion period leading up to the Japanese launch of the PlayStation2 on March 4 - a date chosen by SCEI for its numerical significance. When written numerically using the Japanese calendar, in which this is Heisei year 12, the date becomes 12.3.4.
The company already scored an early public relations win, beating out the launch of Windows 2000 on the early evening news shows across Japan's five major commercial TV networks.
Sales of the new operating system began at midnight but were no match for the PlayStation2 preview when it came to TV coverage - although several chose to lead into the festival coverage with news of problems the company faced online today. Its PlayStation.com Web site was unable to handle demand from users for advance orders.
Powered by an advanced processor the company has developed with Toshiba and dubbed the Emotion Engine, the machine delivers graphics of a far superior quality than its first generation PlayStation games machine.
But for Sony, PlayStation 2 is about much more than games.
Its software discs are a form of DVD (digital versatile disc) which means the unit has the ability to function as a DVD Video player. It also comes with a selection of interfaces never before seen on the games console - namely, IEEE1394, USB (universal serial bus) and PC Card.
These interfaces are expected to become a key feature of the device in the future, allowing interconnection with home entertainment equipment, home and broadband networks and other peripheral devices.