Sales of PlayStation 4 start fast out of the gate

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Posted: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 12:00 am

Sony’s latest video game console, PlayStation 4, hit the market with a bang, even as the company said it was investigating reports of defective consoles.

Sony said gamers bought 1 million of the consoles in its first 24 hours on the market. The product went on sale in the United States and Canada on Friday.

“Sales remain very strong in North America, and we expect continued enthusiasm as we launch the PlayStation 4 in Europe and Latin America on Nov. 29,” Andrew House, the president and group chief executive officer of Sony Computer Entertainment, said in a statement.

The sales number is not much of a surprise: Sony said before the release that it had 1 million pre-orders for the PS4, as it is known. Still, it represents a significant improvement over the introduction of the previous version of Sony’s console, the PlayStation 3. Sony sold 500,000 PS3s, released in November 2006, in the United States and Japan during its first month on the market.

The introduction of the PS4 was marred, however, by complaints in online forums about serious technical problems with the consoles.

A noteworthy portion of the customer reviews for the console on Amazon were negative. At one point, one version of the PS4 had just over 1,800 reviews on Amazon, and about 500 of the reviewers gave a one-star rating, the lowest possible on Amazon. Many of those people wrote that their consoles stopped functioning after a short period of playing or didn’t work at all.

Dan Race, a spokesman for Sony’s U.S. video games division, said that only a small number of people had reported problems about the console.

“This is within our expectations for a new product introduction, and the vast majority of PS4 feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” Race said. “We are closely monitoring for additional reports, but we think these are isolated incidents and represent a very small percentage of total units shipped to consumers to date.”

The release of many new consumer electronics devices are accompanied by reports of defects, and it is often hard to tell how widespread they are. For Sony, a cautionary tale is what happened to Microsoft in 2007.

Less than two years after the last version of its console, the Xbox 360, went on sale, Microsoft publicly acknowledged that it was having to make an “unacceptable number of repairs” to consoles that were sold to customers. Xbox 360s that displayed a red warning light on the front of the console — nicknamed the “red ring of death” by customers — became eligible for an extended warranty.

Microsoft took an accounting charge of more than $1 billion to cover the additional costs of the extended warranty program.

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