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It took almost four years, but Sony is finally launching its PlayStation 3 video game console in the Philippines. That’s a sign that the company is serious about expanding the market for games to parts of the world where nobody ever dreamed video games would be popular.
Game consoles have become part of mass culture in Japan, Korea, North America, and Europe. But other regions of the world are only beginning to embrace entertainment technology. The launch in the Philippines is both an example of how far video games have come, and how far they still have to go to be truly considered a worldwide phenomenon. The console went on sale over the weekend there at a cost of 18,999 Philippine Pesos, or $418, for the PS 3 with a 120-gigabyte hard drive. The PSP-3006 handheld gaming system also went on sale for 9,999 PHP, or $220. A 250GB PS 3 costs 20,999 PHP, or $463.
In some ways, it is no surprise that Sony is targeting the Philippines. The country has a population of 92 million. On the other hand, the annual per capita income is around $3,300. So a PS 3 costs a whole month’s wages there. The Philippines is now the ninth country in Asia where Sony is selling the PS 3. While the launch is late in the Philippines, it’s worth noting that Sony recently launched the PlayStation 2 in Brazil, mainly to deal with a competitive threat from Zeebo, which launched a low-cost console there. Sony says it will continue to expand in more territories.
The Philippines may be considered a minor market in the grand scheme of things. But it will become important over time. A parallel to this is the effort that Microsoft is making in getting its Windows software launched in new territories. As markets mature, the industrialized countries become saturated and the emerging markets supply the growth. It will be interesting to see what Microsoft and Nintendo do in emerging markets. After all, the console battle is a world war.