Japanese videogame creator Square Enix Holdings Co said it would launch the latest edition of its Final Fantasy game series on December 17 in Japan, which may help sales of Sony Corp's PlayStation 3 in the key shopping season.

The Final Fantasy role-playing game series has sold more than 85 million units worldwide since it was first launched in 1987.

Square Enix is developing Final Fantasy XIII exclusively for the PlayStation 3 (PS3) for the Japanese market, while in North America and Europe the game will be playable on the PS3 as well as Microsoft Corp's Xbox 360.

Final Fantasy XIII will sell for 9,240 yen ($100) in Japan, Square Enix said.

The game software maker said it plans to launch the new version overseas in spring 2010.

Sony and Microsoft are hoping that the launches of long-awaited game titles such as Final Fantasy XIII will help drive sales of their game consoles, which are running behind Nintendo Co Ltd's Wii.

Both Sony and Microsoft recently cut the prices of their game hardware to spur demand in the run-up to the holiday season.

In July, Square Enix launched the latest installment of its Dragon Quest role-playing game series for Nintendo's DS in Japan, reinvigorating demand for the dual-screen handheld player.

Sales of the Final Fantasy series have easily outstripped the 55.5 million units sold of Konami Corp's Pro Evolution Soccer series and the 41 million units of Capcom Co Ltd's Resident Evil horror titles.

Ahead of the announcement, shares in Square Enix closed down 0.8 percent at 2,465 yen and Sony dipped 0.4 percent to 2,480 yen, underperforming the benchmark Nikkei average, which rose 0.7 percent.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Joseph Radford)