NEW YORK (CNNfn) - After months of speculation by the gaming community, Sony Corp. is expected to unveil its next generation PlayStation system Tuesday. However it will be at least a year until the system is available in the United States.
The PlayStation 2 will be powered by a microprocessor faster than those found in the most advanced PCs and will be capable of providing motion-picture quality images, according to the Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai Simbun.
Scheduled to go on sale in Japan by March 2000, the console will use DVDs to store data. This will result in a storage capacity nearly eight times that of the CD-ROMs currently used by PlayStation machines.
Nihon said the PlayStation 2's price will be kept below 100,000 yen, which still works out to as high as a hefty $839 in the United States. (Analysts expect the cost to be substantially lower.) Any high price tag, however, might scare off gamers, who can purchase a PlayStation or a Nintendo 64 system for under $150.
Sony is the world's dominant console-gaming company, but is facing new competition these days from Sega. That company's 128-bit Dreamcast machine, due in United States this fall, has whet gamers' appetites with boasts of arcade quality graphics.
PlayStation 2, though, is claiming to be able to handle 50 times more 3-D image data than the Dreamcast, allowing it to create characters similar in appearance to those in the Walt Disney film "Toy Story."
"People have been overwhelmed by the graphical performance, but I haven't heard it described in those terms," said John Taylor, managing director and analyst for Arcadia Investment Co.
Nihon reports the PlayStation 2's processor chip, which Sony co-developed with Toshiba Corp., has data-processing capabilities which are several times faster than Intel's recently introduced Pentium III. With the chip, Sony may enter arenas other than computer gaming, such as business utilities and e-mail.
The PlayStation 2 itself will be able to play DVD movies and music, the paper said.
Part of the key to Sony's past success has been the company's support of third-party software developers. Unlike Nintendo, which makes most of the games for its N64 system in-house, Sony encourages software publishers such as Electronic Arts and Activision to develop products for the system.
Sega, however, is following that lead with Dreamcast. The company has already signed several developers including Hasbro, GT Interactive and Konami to have up to a dozen titles for the console when it hits store shelves in the United States. (The system sold out within hours in Japan during the 1998 holiday season with just four titles to choose from.) Sega of America president and COO Bernard Stolar has said that Dreamcast will cost between $200 and $250 when it launches in the United States.