Market Overview

Rumor: PlayStation 4 Shipments to Begin Ahead of Schedule

The official word from Sony (NYSE: SNE) is that PlayStation 4 will not ship until the holiday season. According DigiTimes, Taiwan supply chain makers are set to begin shipments as soon as the second quarter of the year.

Delta Electronics (a power supply maker), Cheng Uei Precision Industry (which makes connectors) and Foxconn Technology (which will make the thermal modules) will be some of the first companies to begin working on the machine. Foxconn Electronics and Pegatron Technology will reportedly begin the assembly process in the third quarter.

This suggests a few different things. First, it hints that Sony may be prepared to launch PlayStation 4 a little sooner than the holiday period (which is presumably November/December but extends all the way down to September for most game companies).

Second -- and this is where things get interesting -- the report indicates that Sony is ready to begin producing its new console. The company did not show the hardware at its February 20 event, leaving many to wonder if the console's design is complete. If Sony is starting the manufacturing process, however, it is very likely that the general dimensions have been finalized (even if the plastic shell is still being worked on).

Third, Sony may be preparing to ship such a large number of PlayStation 4 units (which is getting a simultaneous release in Japan and America) that it had to start making the console this spring. If that is the case, the company should be able to deliver more than the few hundred thousand units that arrived when both the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 were released.

While unit shortages are common within the game industry, it is vital that Sony provides as many PlayStation 4 units as possible this Christmas. The company is going up against new hardware from Nintendo (OTC: NTDOY), which shipped last year, as well as a mysterious new machine from Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT). If a unit shortage were to limit Sony's initial sales potential, it could hurt the company as consumers look to other consoles for their gaming fix.

It is also important for Sony to manufacture enough units to ship PlayStation 4 in Europe this fall. Right now, Sony execs are not willing to guarantee that the console will arrive there before the year's end.

When asked about the release date, Sony Europe CEO Jim Ryan gave a rather cryptic response.

"We're not saying if Holiday 2013 includes Europe at this stage," he told MCV. "We are only saying we will launch the system before the end of 2013, we're not saying in which parts of the world. But don't infer anything good or bad from that. You can take that anyway you want, but you shouldn't."

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