Sony Fanboys Get Some Good News

doug_thompsonBy Doug Thompson

I finally have good sales figures news for PlayStation 3 fanboys. It’s not as good as I’d hoped, but its pretty good.

I admit to wondering whether anybody still cares about the console wars, but here goes.

The PS3 looked poised to sell a million units a week at Christmas. In fact, early reports at the VG Chartz Web site showed the console passing that threshold. If the Free Weekly had run last week, my column would have bragged about it.

Well, the sales figures got revised and the console fell a little short: 965,350 sold worldwide in the last full week before Christmas. Sales fell Christmas week itself.

This is still a big deal. Last year’s Christmas sales were 533,557 in the best week. The Christmas before that was 609,956. There are no bigger spikes than the ones at Christmas. Why this is a big deal is the subject of the rest of the column, after I give a few more facts for context.

There is no such thing as unalloyed joy for PS3 fans, however. Christmas sales of the Wii actually exceeded — very slightly — Wii sales last year. Assuming VG Chartz figures aren’t revised, the Christmas week sales of the littlest console reached 1,841,209 worldwide. This compares to 1,775,120 last season.

How many people play Wii Fit, anyway? Seriously, Nintendo produced no new must-have game for the Wii this holiday that I’m aware of. I have no idea what’s driving the sales here except it’s still the cheapest console, and that Walmart and Best Buy are selling the console with games as a bundle. I guess that’s enough to keep sales going after Christmas.

There are no surprises on the Xbox 360 front. Sales are slightly down compared to last Christmas.

PlayStation’s gain in momentum is hefty. I don’t think it will ever catch up and “win” this generation’s console war, but a beating is better than a killing.

Cynics will point out that the sales were almost entirely driven by the PS3 exclusive debut of “Final Fantasy XIII” in Japan. The Xbox 360 actually outsold the PS3 in North America and the Wii was far, far ahead of either of those. In Japan, however, the PS3 sold 243,453 units. This was neck-and-neck with the Will, which sold 243,706.

My two cents, however, is that the PS3’s rounded a vital corner on game quality and selection. “Demon’s Souls,” a PS3 exclusive won the game of the year award at the popular site Gamespot. “Final Fantasy XIII” is clearly as much a sales-driver as its predecessors ever were. Top-of-the-line games such as “Dragon Age: Origins” are no longer having to wait for a PS3 port from an original PC or Xbox 360 game. There’s enough of a PS3 customer base to make an early PS3 version worthwhile.

The Wii’s adult-level games never caught on despite some very highly praised titles. The game company Sega recently announced it will give up on producing anything that’s not family-oriented for the Wii after disappointing sales of some fine games. The Xbox 360, meanwhile, has milked the “Halo” game franchise until the poor cow’s udder is bruised.

“Hard Rain” is coming out for PS3. The talk is very good. Sony’s starting to recover from their disastrous failure to keep the “Grand Theft Auto” franchise as a PlayStation exclusive. The biggest Sony blunder was the dire lack of any games worthy of the hardware when the PS3 launched in late 2006.

“Mass Effect 2” — the game I’m looking forward to the most in 2010 — is coming out for the Xbox 360 and the PC. However, it can’t even fit on one disc for the Xbox 360. While switching a disc has never bugged me, this is a pretty clear reminder of how limited the HD-DVD hardware of the Xbox is compared to the storage might of the Playstation’s Blu-Ray and the graphics might of a console that can use that storage.

Things are only going to get worse for the Xbox from here. The only big question that remains is: What keeps the Wii going? Beats me.

Categories: Features