By Craig Zammit

SYDNEY: Sony’s PlayStation 2 console could potentially outsell all other gaming consoles this Christmas, the company has predicted, due to a $3 million investment to build SCE Australia’s social gaming products known as ‘Party Starters’.

“PlayStation 2 will definitely be the number-one selling unit and dollar value product in the interactive category in Australia this Christmas, full-stop,” Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) Australia and New Zealand managing director, Michael Ephraim, told

This bold declaration coincides with SCE Australia’s Christmas 2006 retail and marketing strategy for the promotion of the PlayStation 2 and the Party Starters range.

“The [Party Starters] franchises are as big as most installed bases of other platforms. With the momentum that this has built and the word-of-mouth out there, retailers are very confident of what Party Starters and PlayStation 2 will do this year,” Ephraim said.

SCE Australia expects the combined sales of the Party Starter game titles, which include the karaoke-style SingStar, the quiz show-style Buzz, the EyeToy interactive USB camera and the Guitar-Hero interactive virtual guitar title, to eclipse 650,000 units before 2007.

“Social gaming is almost PlayStation 2.5, because what’s happened out there is: ‘Mum’, who’s 40 years old, has played SingStar and thinks this is great fun and quality home entertainment.

“We would love to sell a PlayStation 2 to every single household in Australia because it’s not just about video gaming anymore, it’s about home entertainment.”

With Nintendo on the cusp of releasing its Wii console, which is heavily-focussed on appealing to people of all ages and interests, the entire video gaming market seems to be embracing the theology of overall family entertainment, and this is why Sony will have to tread carefully.

Nintendo will be taking on Sony head-to-head in this sector with its innovative new controller-design, creating a new style of gameplay which both simplifies and revitalises the video gaming genre.

Ephraim remains confident, however, that despite Nintendo and Microsoft’s next generation consoles, the Wii and Xbox 360 respectively, PlayStation 2 will be the product of choice for families this Christmas.

“We clearly believe that with social gaming, anybody in the country can enjoy it. That’s why we are very bullish that this is a home entertainment category we have created which will definitely be continuing into next year and Christmas 2007,” he said.

Sony has already achieved sales of over 300,000 units for its EyeToy titles, over 265,000 sales of its SingStar titles, more than 130,000 Buzz quiz show games have been sold and Sony’s Guitar Hero title has sold almost 25,000 units.

To support the social gaming range, SCE Australia will begin promoting Party Starters in catalogues, on television (free-to-air and subscriber channels) and through radio commercials beginning in mid October and running until January. A large investment will also be made in front-of-store retail displays and point-of-sale materials.

Xbox 360 sales figures, provided by GfK, for the six months since launch in March 2006 show 87,000 console unit sales at an average price of $630 each with over 315,000 games sold.