THE shine may be taken off Sony’s plans to launch its much-anticipated PlayStation Portable (PSP) console in New Zealand with a huge fanfare.
Sony will release the handheld entertainment system here on September 1, but a parallel importer has beaten the electronics giant to the post.
Albany-based Parallel Imported is already selling the console and a range of games at its stores on Auckland’s North Shore and Botany in East Auckland.
Warwick Light, sales and marketing general manager of Sony Computer Entertainment New Zealand, acknowledges this may take some of the glitter off Sony’s launch, but says it will not do much damage.
“I do not think it will do too much harm in the greater scheme of things,” he says, adding Sony has a long-term business model for the product.
The PSP is already available in the US and Japan, but Light says the local release date is tied to launches in Australia and Europe and will not be moved forward.
Light is concerned, however, that buying the product through unofficial channels will create a negative experience for customers.
“We want New Zealand consumers to have the best experience they can,” he says.
“We are only going to offer warranty for products we distribute. Another concern is safety. Everything we release is guaranteed to meet with all the applicable New Zealand standards, whereas products from other regions will only comply with local safety standards.”
There may also be compatibility issues for owners of parallel imported units.
Movies released for the PSP on its proprietary Universal Media Discs (UMD) are regionally zoned.
“A UMD that is region coded for New Zealand will not play on a PSP sourced from Japan or the US,” says Light.
While games are not zoned, cross regional compatibility is not guaranteed, he adds.
With parallel importing being legal in New Zealand, Sony can do little more than communicate the benefit of buying through official channels, says Light.
He expects retailers to convey a similar message in the lead up to the official launch.
Another battle Sony and its channel faces is that Parallel Imported is selling both the PSP Value Pack, as well as the unit on its own.
Sony currently plans to only offer the Value Pack, which includes a PSP unit, a pouch, memory stick, battery pack, headphones, AC adapter, wrist strap, cloth and a UMD containing video, music and game samples.
Sony’s launch price for the Value Pack will be around $470, while Parallel Imported charges $449 and $349 for the individual unit.
Light says Sony sees the Value Pack as the best way to highlight the multimedia nature of the PSP.
Tayne Derriman, owner of Parallel Imported, says the company has been stocking the PSP for around a month, but would not say where it is sourced.
“I cannot comment — that is our intellectual property,” he says.
Derriman says the company offers its own one-year warranty. A new store is opening in Porirua, Wellington, in two weeks.