- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2009

NEW YORK — The economy took its toll on the International Consumer Electronics Show, but its organizers found a bright side. They said the more modest attendance pleased exhibitors.

In previous years, CES has been the largest trade show in the country, with 140,000 attendees. This year, the Consumer Electronics Association expected more than 130,000, based on registrations. But now the association says there were at least 110,000 at this year’s event in Las Vegas, pending a final, audited count.

Even with the lower attendance, CES will maintain its title as the largest trade show in the U.S., according to the Association for Exhibit and Event Professionals.

Jason Oxman, senior vice president of industry affairs at CEA, said the economy was in part to blame for the smaller turnout, because exhibiting companies brought fewer people to staff their booths. The association also consciously limited attendance by introducing a $100 fee for people pre-registering late and a $200 fee for those registering at the door.

That kept out “trick-or-treaters” - people who visit the booths just to grab promotional products - and others who don’t go to the industry event to do business, Mr. Oxman said.

“The quality of attendees was higher than any year anyone could remember,” he said. The CEA’s board unanimously asked the staff to keep attendance at the same level in the future, he said.

The press and analyst corps was out in force, with about 6,000 showing up, similar to or slightly higher than last year, Mr. Oxman said.

The technology industry is reeling from a weak holiday season. Predictions that spending in that category would hold up well in the face of a recession have turned out to be wrong. NPD Group said that holiday sales of electronics and computers declined 5.7 percent in the U.S. compared to last year.

PlayStation 2 still playing games - and 50 million strong

The Sony PlayStation 2 debuted in 2000, before the beginning of the Bush administration, when Google Inc. was still a private search startup and the iPod and Windows XP hadn’t been born. Yet despite its age in a business obsessed with the new, the video game console remains a big seller today.

In fact, Sony Corp. announced Tuesday it has sold 50 million PlayStation 2 units in North America.

Microsoft Corp., meanwhile, has already discontinued the original Xbox, which launched a year after Sony’s PS2. According to the most recently available figures from the NPD Group, which tracks U.S. sales only, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft sold 14.5 million of those Xbox consoles. Nintendo Co.’s GameCube, another PS2 competitor, sold 12 million units in the country. NPD puts U.S.-only sales of the PS2 through November at 43 million.

In November, Americans bought 206,000 units of the PlayStation 2, which now costs $130, down from its original $300 price tag. The people buying it are no longer the early adopters and hard-core gamers, but rather, lower-income consumers and families who want to get into - or back into - gaming, said John Koller, director of hardware marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment America.

The PlayStation 2’s successor, the $400 PlayStation 3, sold 378,000 units in November. Launched in 2006, it has lagged its less expensive rivals.

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