Sony is expected to sell up to 1.5 million of its PlayStation 3 consoles in Britain this year, putting it on track to outstrip Nintendo's cheaper Wii within 12 to 18 months of its launch.
The consumer electronics giant has made 220,000 of the £425 consoles available for the UK launch on Friday, a figure so large that retailers are reporting none of the supply problems that have plagued rival launches.
However, analysts and retailers have warned against interpreting the absence of a stock squeeze as a negative sign.
Nick Parker, an analyst with Screen Digest, said: "The lack of shortage is supply driven; what Sony has shipped will sell. We estimate that Sony will sell around 4 million units in Europe this year, with 1 to 1.5 million in the UK".
The specialist firm believes that Sony's PlayStation 3 could overtake the Wii – a device aimed at a predominately young audience – during 2008, and possibly towards the end of the year, with Microsoft's Xbox 360 likely to follow. This is despite the high price of the PlayStation 3 compared with the £180 Wii or £265 Xbox 360.
According to retailers, when Microsoft launched the Xbox 360 in 2005, about 70,000 units were available in the UK, while the first day stock of the Nintendo Wii last autumn amounted to 105,000. Both launches were accompanied by stock shortages.
A spokesman for Woolworths said of the PlayStation 3: "This is the first console launch for years where we anticipate that we will be able to have consoles available at the day of launch in every single Woolworths store".