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Japanese gamers line up for midnight PS4 launch

TOKYO -- Diehard gamers in Japan who began lining up earlier this week will get their hands on a new PlayStation 4 on Friday, when Sony finally unleashes its console on home turf.

The long-awaited Japanese launch comes after a stellar debut in the United States and Europe where more than 5.4 million units have been shifted since November, offering a bright ray of hope to Sony after years of gloomy sales of its key consumer electronics goods.

At midnight, the first 100 customers will be allowed to take home a new console from Sony Building, a flagship display venue in Tokyo's bustling district of Ginza, putting the lucky few fans hours ahead of a nationwide mass release.

“I want to play games with state-of-the-art technology,” said Tetsuya Tamura, a 44-year-old IT engineer who arrived on Wednesday with his son, Shion, 19, to take first place in the line.

Early adopters of the PS4 in Europe and the U.S. have enthused over its vast computing capacity and the cinematic graphics it makes possible.

“I played on a trial one and found that its processing speed is fast and it's easy to play,” said Shion, who had brought his PlayStation Portable to pass the time.

In the coveted U.S. market, Sony boasted that video game industry sales data, reported last week by NPD Group, showed PS4 is far outselling Microsoft's Xbox One consoles, also released in November.

Analysts say sales at home are expected to widen the lead.

Sony's domestic rival, Nintendo, launched its new Wii U console in November 2012. It took more than a year for the video game giant to sell 5.86 million units.

PS4, Wii U and Xbox One are fighting to be at the heart of digital home entertainment at a time when consoles are under intense pressure to prove their worth as people increasingly turn to smartphones or tablets for games and videos.

Sony's gaming division has emerged as a potential savior for the once-mighty giant, which is struggling to reinvent itself in the digital age, having been left in the dust by its nimbler rivals like South Korea's Samsung.

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Customers line up to get numbered tickets to purchase Sony's PlayStation 4 video game console outside the Sony building in Tokyo's Ginza shopping district on Friday, Feb. 21. The video game console will be released in Japan on Feb. 22. (AFP)

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