By Brian Johnsrud
Video game console, home theater, online bank or lethal weapon? Sony's PlayStation2 was one of the most anticipated game systems in Japan. Not reaching U.S. shelves for about another year, they have already sold 1.4 million systems since is was launched into the buyers grasp on March 4. However, perhaps it wasn't entirely what the world had been expecting.
Not soon after being released, the Japanese Government noticed a fierce resemblance between the PlayStation2 and missile guidance systems. The consoles consist of an 8 megabyte memory card, and they are currently classified as "general-purpose products related to conventional weapons." Missile guidance systems consist of a missile mounted camera that transmits images of what it is viewing to an operator who can affect the missiles trajectory from his position. This may sound familiar to many games that involve similar scenarios.
With this obvious concern, the prospect of making PlayStation2 international had stopped dead in it's tracks. Under Japan's Foreign Exchange and Trade law, the export of restricted products, such as these, worth more than 50,000 yen ($479) requires approval from the trade ministry and acquire an official license. Therefore, unless Sony receives the approval, they legally won't be able to export more than two game consoles out of Japan.
Another unexpected glitch was centered on the built-in DVD player accompanied with each console. Sony mapped the globe into 6 separately coded regions. So, North America receives systems with one code; Japan, Europe, and China have systems with another, and so on. The need for this was accompanied with Hollywood's release dates.
Because DVDs are released far earlier in the United States than other regions, these codes would eliminate the ability to export American DVDs to be sold and viewed on another country's playstation2 for profit. But, apparently disenabling codes have been released over the Internet, and they provide step-to-step instructions on how to alter the memory card in your console to allow oversea's viewing of DVDs.
Despite these setbacks, Sony is still reigning in the due date for these to arrive in the states. However, with the negative publicity, Sony stock has nose-dived since the beginning of March. Currently, Sony's share price has lost nearly a quarter of it's value.
An advantage, on the other hand, to these systems may be accompanied with their ability to connect to the Internet. Various Japanese and American companies are working to give everyone with a phone line and a game console the ability to do online banking with their video-game controller.
A recent agreement between J.P. Morgan and Co., Sony Corp. , and Japan's Sakura Bank Ltd. has formed a dominant force aimed toward this goal.