January NPDs: Playstation 3 to Outsell Xbox 360

Feb 14, 2008

To say since the debut of the Playstation 3 in November of 2006 the sales of the console have not been meeting Sony’s original lofty expectations would be an understatement (Remember that second job you got just to afford one?). However, after 14 consecutive months of coming in last for next generation console sales on the NPD charts it appears as though for the first time this generation the Playstation 3 is going be the second most sold console for the month of January 2008. The Wii is still expected to be the comfortable leader as even after 14 months there are still massive shortages everywhere. Most of those who still do not have Wii by now are beginning to think the console just doesn’t exist.

While this is definitely a moral victory for Sony it is no secret that since the New Year the rareness of the Xbox 360 has been on par with that of the Wii. Jeff Bell commented to this effect to Reuters, “We’re literally out of stock in many stores. We think this will have an impact on our sales. It may cause the overall industry number to be down a little bit. Retailers have been really upset, they are on allocation. It is a lag I think we’re seeing in January and that may continue into February, then as spring ramps up, we’ll be able to meet that demand.” While Microsoft is officially commenting that better than expected holiday sales have unfortunately fueled the current shortage the conspiracy theorist in me and many of you can’t help but wonder some questions in our heads. Did Microsoft really slow down production hoping that left over consoles from the holidays would be left for the start of this year? For a company who exuded confidence over their holiday lineup last season that notion becomes a bit hard to swallow. On the flip side, it was quite apparent the demand for the console was there as indicated by the sales during the months leading up the holiday period. Halo 3, Call of Duty 4, and Mass Effect is about as good as it’s going to get during one 60 day period.

With Microsoft’s PR out in full force trying to blunt the blow that this month’s NPD numbers will bring them, I can’t help but think the first week of 2008 at CES was as long, hot, and lonely as the host city’s desert (Las Vegas for those of you scoring at home). In the days leading up to CES did anyone think the high definition format war would be all but essentially over 6 weeks later? Did you think you’d be seeing HD-DVD players and movies hit the bargain bin like rocks falling off a cliff from a Halo 3 cut scene? While only Sony rolled the dice on a high definition format as standard in their machine from day one, it only seems natural that perhaps at the very least Microsoft was in the advanced planning stages of a SKU more elite than the elite. Whatever you want to call this potential SKU is your choice, but it basically would have been an elite with an HD-DVD drive standard along with a few other bells and whistles. I know Microsoft has postured that under no circumstance would there be such a SKU at any time during this generation. To those doubters, I offer J. Allard’s guarantee that prior to the official unveiling of the Xbox 360 he assured the industry the next Xbox would only launch as one SKU which of course we know now was smoke and mirrors.

Fast forward to Warner Brothers and New Line’s announcement of Blu Ray exclusivity. Add to that the immediate cancellation of Toshiba’s and other member’s of the HD-DVD consortium’s press conference at CES that followed, and the message was sent loud and clear: blu ray had in one swoop ended the format war. This potentially left Microsoft sitting on the production line with a SKU that was inviable. No consumer would purchase a console backing an HD format with only two out of what seems like 30 studios exclusively backing the format. Whether or not there is any merit to this we’ll never know, but the pieces of the puzzle most certainly do fit. The overall trend in the industry seems to be heading back toward less SKUs rather than more as even Sony has now phased out not one, but two of their SKUs.

I maybe have seen one too many Oliver Stone movies but the shot out of left field at the HD-DVD consortium at CES I believe left Microsoft at the production alter. This shortage is sort of like that strange period where you don’t talk to an ex-girlfriend before resuming production again to normal levels.

Tags: , industry news, January NPD, NPD, Playstation 3, sales, Wii, Xbox 360