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has enhanced the software for its PlayStation 3 system in an attempt to boost its console business and challenge arch-rivals


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The Japanese electronics giant, which faces stiff competition from Nintendo's Wii and Microsoft's Xbox 360 consoles, announced version 3.50 of the PS3 software in a blog posting.

Support for Blu-ray 3D Disc playback will be released shortly, according to Eric Lempel, vice president of Sony's U.S network operations. He added that Sony is also bolstering its social networking credentials.

"Developers will be able to create PS3 games that have more interaction with Facebook," explained the executive. "Once compatible PS3 titles are available, PS3 users can choose to access public information on


-- including user name, profile, uploaded photos and friends list -- to enhance their gameplay experience."

The video gaming industry, which Sony helped create, continues to struggle with a tough spending climate, hence the need to keep up with trends such as social networking and 3D. In the first eight months of 2010,

video-game sales fell 8% from a year earlier

, with hardware sales slumping 12%, according to NPD research. NPD also

reports that console sales in August were down 5% compared to the same period last year

, with total game sales falling 10%.

Console makers, however, are also hoping for a boost from new accessories, such as Sony's new PlayStation Move controller and Microsoft's forthcoming Kinect motion controller for the Xbox 360. Microsoft also has high hopes for the recently-released


game, the latest in the popular Halo franchise, while

Rock Band 3

is expected to cause a splash when it debuts next month, targeted at PlayStation, Xbox 360 and Wii.

Sony shares were falilng 67 cents, or 2.12%, to $30.86 shortly after market open on Tuesday, as the Nasdaq dipped 0.22%.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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