This month all (geek) eyes are on the videogame industry. With two next-generation systems launching in a matter of days and dozens of high-quality games scheduled for release across the board, it’s going to be a big month for console manufacturers and game developers. While heated debates rage over just who will take the next-gen crown—Microsoft, Nintendo, or Sony—there’s a war already waging between systems that are sold today. In June we took a close look at estimated console sales numbers and found that the PlayStation 2 was still dominating. How do things look today, on the even of next-gen mania?
According to data from the NPD Group, Sony stills rules at retail with the PS2, which year-to-date as has sold 2.6 million units in the US alone. A huge gaming library coupled with low-cost hardware and the success of PS2-only games like Guitar Hero have kept Sony’s current-generation sales numbers incredibly strong. Now over six years old, the aging console with seemingly ancient graphical capabilities (hey, six years is a long time) is selling better than the shiny new stuff. Consider Microsoft’s Xbox 360. The console has now been out for almost a year, and yet it is still struggling to beat grandpa PS2 at retail, selling 2.28 million units through October of this year. That’s a difference of over 300,000 units, or more than a single month’s average Xbox 360 sales.
The Xbox 360 did beat the PS2 in April, selling 295,000 units to Sony’s 206,000. The boost came roughly when Microsoft claimed to have worked out their supply problems. The Xbox 360 is priced at $299 for the Core System, and $399 for the premium system. The PlayStation 2 can currently be snapped up for $129.
The success of the PlayStation 2 is likely to continue for a year if not longer, because the PlayStation 3 is debuting at $499 and $599 and is not expected to come down in price during the first year of its retail life. Plus, at $129 a pop, we know of people picking up PS2s like candy. How about a unit for the garage?
Xbox about to heat up?
What are the prospects for the Xbox 360? In talking with readers we’ve come to believe that many gamers are taking a wait-and-see attitude with the PS3, so we may see the 360 hardware sell more once Sony’s new system sells out and consumers get hungry for a next-generation experience they can actually buy. The much anticipated 360-only Gears of War is also bound to move units, but will these two things be enough to get the 360 to outperform the PS2 during the holidays? If not, Microsoft is hoping that its new HD DVD add-on drive coupled with the launch of the Xbox Live Video Marketplace will also spur some interest. Microsoft’s biggest problem isn’t Sony, however, but Nintendo.
The PS2 has a challenger to the "mad profits" throne
One of the most surprising gaming stories this year has to be the Nintendo DS, which still has not slowed its amazing run, crushing every other system when it comes to units sold. For the month of October, the system sold an amazing 360,000 units, and that number will only go up as we get closer to the holidays. Year-to-date estimates for DS sales in the US are approximately 2.8 million, making it the best selling gaming hardware out there.
The DS’s chief mobile competition is the Sony PSP, which has been so far unable to capture the attention of the market in quite the same way. For the months of June through October, the DS sold more than twice the number of the PSP, weighing in at over 2 million units to Sony’s 750,000 units. PSP sales are not necessarily weak, but they are certainly overshadowed by Nintendo’s unending prowess in portable gaming.
Last but not least, there’s the Wii. 4 million units are expected to be available in the first year, and demand seems insatiable. Nintendo has to be looking at their position in the industry with a wide grin. Its quirky strategy of unique control schemes and low-cost hardware is paying off more than anyone could have anticipated.