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Sony's hope for PlayStation 4 profit reset

By Ramy Inocencio, for CNN
updated 5:45 AM EST, Wed February 20, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sony to unveil new Playstation this Wednesday, six years after PlayStation 3
  • WSJ: new Playstation will let users stream games online
  • Sony on track for five consecutive years of annual losses
  • Yen has risen 20% since October helping Japan exporter profits

(CNN) -- After more than six years, Sony is set to unveil the latest iteration of its PlayStation line this Wednesday.

With the PS4, Sony also aims to recapture some of the luster it has lost to competitors like the Nintendo Wii and Micrsoft Xbox. While Sony's PS2 is still the gaming world's best-selling console with more than 150 million units, estimates put PS3 sales at about half that at 77 million.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the new PS4 will let users stream games online. Sony is also rumored to be working on an online TV service to rival cable companies which would prominently use the PlayStation console.

Sony's decline has been seen as a metaphor for the falling fortunes of Japan Inc. Sony's share price rose 1.5% higher by mid-day on the Tokyo Stock Exchange as investors hope the PS4 will be a financial lifeline for the troubled tech giant.

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In its most recent quarter, Sony bled $123 million from its books with gaming-related sales falling 15.1% year-on-year while its ailing television division saw sales plunge 23.3%.

The company's third quarter results appear to stem a larger loss of $197 million from its second quarter and a $310 million loss in its first.

But if Sony does not report a profit for the fourth quarter of 2012, the company will post five full years of consecutive losses.

One crutch for Sony -- and all other of Japan Inc.'s exporters from automobiles to tech and optics -- has arrived in the form of currency devaluation.

Since October 1 the yen has weakened 20% -- from under 78 yen to more than 93 yen to the U.S. dollar -- which has helped the bottom line of Japan's exporters. As a currency weakens, a country's exporters enjoy a profit boost when earnings are repatriated back to the home country.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has continued to voice strong support for monetary easing and the associated yen weakness. At the same time, the governor of the Bank of Japan, Masaaki Shirakawa, announced he will step down March 19 -- several weeks earlier than his scheduled term ends. Shirakawa had opposed some of Mr. Abe's stimulus measures. The international community fears the fall in the yen may spark a currency war.

In the meantime, a weaker yen gives Sony and the rest of Japan's exporters an easier path to recovery. A strong debut for the latest version of the PlayStation, one of Sony's marquee products, would also be a welcome relief for the beleaguered company.

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