By James Wells & Craig Zammit

TOKYO, JAPAN: Sony has admitted to a possible delay in the arrival of its PlayStation3 (PS3) video gaming console due to difficulties mass producing the crucial high definition Blu-ray optical drive components.

According to a Japanese news service, Sankei Web, Sony has acknowledged the possibility of a delay if delivery of its Blu-ray drives is later than expected. The delay could push the launch date in its first territory back from May to October this year, but still in time for the crucial US and Japanese fourth quarter.

If the console is delayed, countries including Australia may have to wait until next year.

Last week Sony had denied a report that its PlayStation3 video game console might be delayed from the second quarter of 2006 until the fourth quarter of 2006 in Japan.

A spokesperson for Sony Computer Entertainment Australia said that as far as the intended launch for PlayStation3 was concerned, it was business as usual.

"It’s all speculation at the moment. There is no official comment, it’s planning as normal and we will update retailers if there is any change. We are hoping for launch at the end of this year, but there is nothing confirmed," said Sony Computer Entertainment spokesperson, Rebecca Rice.

In Tokyo, Sony spokesperson Kei Sakaguchi, said the company’s single goal to have the console released in at least one territory by the end of May 2006 had not changed.

“There is no change in our plan to release the console in Spring 2006,” he said.

Sakaguchi was responding to a claim from a Merril Lynch spokesperson, who suggested the delay in waiting for final specifications on PS3 technology would push the launch date in the US back to early 2007.                                                                                                                           

The cost-price for the Blu-ray high definition drive component is already hinted at close to $A475, with another crucial PS3 component, The Cell processor chip, expected to cost $A310.