Microsoft’s Xbox 360 slaps Sony’s PS3 in Japan

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Tokyo (Japan) – Once again, it is an exclusive game title that is the decisive factor in console sales. In this case, it is worth a special note, as the Xbox 360 sold almost three times more units as the PS3 over the course of one week. Nationally and internationally, the Xbox 360 and the PS3 seem to be involved in a dead heat with sales advantages shifting almost every month. Who will make the winning move?

Microsoft usually has a tough time grabbing positive video game headlines against Nintendo and Sony, but we are sure that Microsoft is celebrating at least this week. According to a Reuters article and an Ascii Media Works report, the Xbox 360 dramatically outsold the PS3 in Japan, a market that has been extremely difficult for Microsoft.

In the week ended August 10, Microsoft sold 28,116 Xbox 360 units of the Xbox 360 compared Sony, which sold 10,705 PS3 units. Microsoft’s success is believed to have been driven by Namco Bandai's role-playing game "Tales of Vesperia", an exclusive title for the Xbox 360. The sales result is impressive, but still far behind Nintendo’s Wii, which sold 41,044 in the same time frame.

Popular exclusive game titles typically work very well as a short term catalyst for game console sales. Extreme examples, for example, include Bungie’s Halo 3 for the Xbox 360, which enabled Microsoft to sell almost 528,000 Xbox 360 units during the game’s release month in September 2007 – which was more than twice the 277,000 units the company sold in the prior month. In September of 2007, the Xbox 360 outsold the PS3 (119,000 units) by a factor greater than 4:1 and even eclipsed Nintendo’s Wii, which sold 501,000 consoles during the month.

In June of this year, Sony was able to profit from the release of Metal Gear Solid IV, boosting its console sales from about 209,000 in May to almost 406,000 in June. In July, sales were back down to 225,000 units.        

A look across PS3 and Xbox 360 sales charts indicates that both companies are caught up in a cat and mouse game and spikes in sales are primarily driven by exclusive game titles, suggesting that a trend towards exclusive game titles will be accelerating. Nintendo appears to be immune to this battle and has been able to distinguish its hardware enough from the other two without being overly exposed to software swings.

Sony was recently rumored to be planning another price cut for its Playstation 3, but it appears that such rumors will not translate into reality anytime soon – especially not if content has much more impact on sales than $50 price cuts. At least at this time it seems that neither Microsoft nor Sony have figured out how to achieve a substantial long-term advantage over the other, even if there are clear indications that the PS3 is slowly chipping away market share from Microsoft. The rate, however, varies from month to month and there is reasonable doubt whether Sony will be able match the installed base of the Xbox 360 within the next two years.

Both companies are trapped in a market that just seems to be waiting for the winning move. So far, we haven’t seen it.