What the heck is going on with the console war?
What's the deal with Microsoft losing the entire first quarter of 2008's hardware sales to the PS3 and Wii while not really seeming to give care? Is it all show (the not caring part) or what?
Maybe I should start taking bets for what Microsoft's "official" reason will be this time. They've already used up "underestimated demand" and "production capacity issues". My money's going on "Who cares about March anyway?! March is a stupid doo-doo month!"
In anticipation of Thursday's official release of the NPD sales numbers, analysts are predicting that Sony outdid Microsoft for March. I'm not sure about you, but I was getting used to seeing Xbox 360 sales as the metric people really watched, while Wii sales were a never-ending fluke we expected to crash at any moment and the PS3 was the little system that (never) could.
When the PS3 outsold the 360 the first time, we all agreed... it was a fluke. Then it happened again, but that was okay since it was sort of a mistake on Microsoft's part combined with another fluke success on Sony's part. Now, we're approaching official confirmation of the third time (in a row no less,) suggesting this is edging toward an actual "trend" with the monthly order of hardware sales repeatedly coming in Wii>PS3>360. Maybe someone should call Microsoft and point out that they've now seemingly lost the entire first quarter of the year to the competition in terms of hardware sales.
Okay, jokes aside, when does this start becoming a bigger (or as Dave would say "realer") deal to people? I'm sure there will be a few retorts of "Yeah, but look at the software attach rate!" or crap like that from the ardent 360 supporters, but in the end, if you're consistently outsold, you're losing ground and eventually software sales will follow hardware install base. Something Sony knows all too well, but Microsoft doesn't really seem to be acknowledging. It's almost as if they think it's fine as long as they have an explanation... any explanation. It shouldn't be fine though. I know you don't want to publicly rush to push the big red PANIC! button, but I'm curious when you guys think that time is? Four consecutive months of last place sales? Five months? Half a year? How many times losing out to your competition is when you have to man-up and admit something is wrong?
If we look at the immediate "big name" releases, we've got Gran Turismo 5 Prologue hitting the PS3 this week in the US. That's an April title to which Microsoft doesn't really have a counter. Then we have Grand Theft Auto IV on both platforms which I think everyone (including me) expects to sell better on the 360 simply based on install base (personally I think the DLC will matter a lot less than some vocal folks would have you believe.) Except I see a PS3 GTA IV hardware bundle being advertised (in Europe) with no counter from Microsoft anywhere. I wouldn't be surprised to see the numbers of GTA IV sales a lot closer than some folks think (especially when considering their difference in current install base.)
Will GTA IV + DLC move more 360s than GT5P + GTA IV on the PS3 for the month? I don't think it will and if by some chance Sony outdoes Microsoft in April, they've got May to make it up because June's going to be Sony's month with Metal Gear Solid 4, possibly the biggest PS3 release to date coming out without a comparable blockbuster in the Microsoft camp. At this rate, I could easily see the PS3 outselling the 360 in 5 or 6 months of the first half of the year.
Certainly sometime between now and then a lot of folks need to stop, survey the gaming landscape, and say "WTF is going on here?!" What's the different between 3 consecutive flukes and a trend? When is it "safe" to call Sony's momentum a comeback? Certainly that can be done before they outright have a larger install base than Microsoft, right?
So to get this ball rolling, I ask... What in the heck do you think?
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The thing about console numbers is that they don't tell anything resembling the full story. For example, how many people bought a PS3 because it is the cheapest and best Blu-Ray player? How many people bought a wii just to play wii sports. Microsoft won last year in terms of having the most and best exclusives. Right now, Nintendo is winning for this year with best and most exclusives.
Metal Gear could change everything, but right now, the best use for a PS3 is a blu-ray player and the reason why it is selling so well is because HDDVD died. You can't declare it a winner from that though because Sony makes the money off the games, not the systems.