Sony launches 3D TVs, games

Sony’s plans for 3D entertainment begin coming together on Thursday as the company kicks off sales of 3D televisions and 3D games for its PlayStation 3 console.

The TVs and games will be offered in North America, Europe, and Japan as part of a launch timed to coincide with the start of soccer’s World Cup on Friday. Some of the matches played during the month-long contest will be offered in 3D and those broadcasts are hoped to provide an early push to 3D TV, but beyond the World Cup, it remains to be seen if the enthusiasm for 3D movies like Avatar will translate into sales

The focus of Sony’s 3D push will be the U.S., where the company unveiled on Wednesday an initial line-up of seven 3D TV models.

Two top-end models, a 60-inch set that will cost $5000 and a 52-inch set that will cost $4000, are ready to go with glasses and a transmitter box needed to synchronize the glasses to the TV. Five other models, from a $3400 55-inch model to a 40-inch model that costs $2100, are ready for 3D but require the glasses and transmitter to be purchased separately.

Similar TVs, albeit at more expensive prices, are also going on sale in Europe and Japan.

Sony also announced plans to offer software updates to four Blu-ray Disc players that will add support for 3D content. Its PlayStation 3 got 3D gaming support earlier this year and a further upgrade promised for later this year will add 3D Blu-ray Disc compatibility.

With the 3D hardware comes 3D content

On Thursday, Sony began selling its first 3D games for the PlayStation 3. The games, which are available via the online PlayStation Store, include “WipEout HD,” “Super Stardust HD,” “PAIN” and “MotorStorm Pacific Rift.” The first three are full games and the last is a demo version.

Later this month, its first Blu-ray Disc, the animated-hit Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, will be released in a package that will include a conventional 2D version of the movie.

For U.S. audiences, the company is also planning a 3D TV network with Discovery Channel and IMAX and has signed on as a sponsor of ESPN’s planned 3D sports network.

Sony hopes to sell 2.5 million 3D televisions during their first year on sale, and a successful launch for the format could mean other gains for the company. Sony’s consumer electronics, professional video, and TV and movie studio businesses could all end up with higher sales if 3D is embraced by consumers.

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