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Sony is to delay the launch of Home, its virtual community service for users of the PlayStation 3 console, until spring 2008. The service, which was originally scheduled for release this autumn, is a real-time interactive virtual world that serves as a meeting place for PlayStation 3 users.

Much like Second Life it allows individuals to create avatars to interact with others. It also enables them to play games against competitors, to shop, and to build their own personal space.

Kazuo Hirai, the new chief executive of Sony's video game business Sony Computer Entertainment, announced the delay in a keynote speech at the Tokyo Game Show.

"This is going to be a worldwide service that needs to offer a wide range of functions required in Japan, in the US, in Europe and in Asia," said Hirai. "We aim to launch this as something that can meet expectations of people all over the world."

The decision to postpone the launch of Home is yet another setback for Sony. The firm had to delay the European debut of the PlayStation 3 itself because of production issues, meaning that it came out one year after Microsoft launched its Xbox 360 console. The high cost of the PS3 and the runaway success enjoyed by Nintendo and its Wii console have has also impacted on the consumer electronics giant.

According to recent figures from Japanese analysts Nikkei Net Kansai, by the end of July, the Wii had sold nine million units across Japan, America and Germany, outdoing Microsoft Xbox 360 sales of 8.8 million during the same period despite launching a year later.

The Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3), which was launched in the US and Japan within a few days of the Wii, only sold 3.7 million units during the same timeframe. Sony is no doubt hoping the introduction of Home will enhance the appeal of the PS3 console amongst gamers.

When it does finally go live, Home will be available as a free download and will launch directly from the PS3 system's home menu.

© 2007 ENN

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