All the analyst talk is about who will win the important 2007 holiday sales, Nintendo Wii or Sony PlayStation 3. Can it really be all over for the Xbox 360?
It was 37 degrees Celsius here in Melbourne Australia today as we, unlike most of the populated world, warm up for Christmas.
Likewise this is the hottest period for gaming console manufacturers as we see out the first full year of the so-called next-generation in console gaming. I guess after a year (longer in the case of Microsoft's Xbox 360) it is time we called it current-gen.
What a golden year it has been for video gaming in general, developers have begun to push the envelope technologically as they come to grips with the new hardware. Though, drifting onto the PC gaming front for a moment, I am yet to see a hardware rig that can handle Crytek's new CPU burner Crysis in its full Direct X 10 glory, might need to wait until next year for that.
Home game consoles hooked up to the Net have opened development up, with Xbox LIVE continuing to flourish, with Arcade and Marketplace the pre-eminent way to shop online for console content.
Sony, will catch up next year with Play TV and PlayStation Home set to be launched. Meanwhile Nintendo's Virtual Console provides a nice efficient nostalgic doorway to past gaming memories.
Okay, so now we head into the holiday season, great! Time to head down to the beach, right? No say the gaming companies, time to think about a new gaming console for those long winter nights ahead (sorry northern hemisphere folk).
The Sony PlayStation 3 has built up some momentum of late, finally reducing that wallet breaking price tag, and in so doing snagging a fair amount of market share.
In fact in Japan this past week the PS3 trebled its normal sales volumes, to pull ahead of the Nintendo Wii which is suffering from somewhat of a homeland slide in sales.
Japanese Sales for week ending Nov 11
1. Nintendo DS: 78,884
2. PlayStation Portable: 58,964
3. PlayStation 3: 55,924
4. Nintendo Wii: 34,456
5. PlayStation 2: 9043
6. Xbox 360: 5817
What does this mean for the up-to-now dominant Nintendo Wii
Is the big N in for a bad holiday season? Not according to analysts elsewhere.
When presented with the following Sony statement regarding the boost in PS3 sales; "The PlayStation 3 sold 121,000 units at retail for the month of October, Sony expects a great deal of momentum moving forward this holiday and beyond with the availability of new PS3 hardware and pricing. Based on internal data, the company is already seeing a great spike in sales with a 192 percent lift for the PS3 over the past two weeks." pcworld.com quoted analyst Jesse Divnich who poured water on the PS3 euphoria; "Although the grass may look greener on the other side, the market still questions Sony's ability to generate strong first-party sales -- a key factor to any console's success," he said. Party Pooper.
Perhaps the Wii is still struggling with getting units to shelves. It is a common thread reported worldwide. Check out the problems they are having in Belfast , as the Wii is considered the must-have product for Christmas.
"This is 'the' console for the whole family," according to Colin Watt, deputy manager of Smyths Toystore in Belfast. "It is not just for kids, it's for everyone. Anyone can play it - even mum and dad."
Supplies at Smyths had been steady right up until the end of September when organised shoppers began making inquiries. Since then the store has been inundated with requests and has had to pre-order a set number of consoles for customers.
John Oag from the Zavvi store (formerly Virgin) said his store was also reduced to pre-ordering for customers as Nintendo were allocating numbers to individual companies.
Yesterday the store received 30 consoles which were snapped up in 90 minutes.
He attributed the Wii's popularity to its "fun factor".
"I think the novelty factor of the Wii is what makes it so popular," he explained. "It has motion sensors which allows players to become more involved in the game, such as when you play tennis, the player has to move about in order to swing the racquet. Also the games are more 'old school' Nintendo games."
So where does that leave the poor old Microsoft Xbox 360, the one with the year head start, the excellent online service and the deep and ever broadening library of games?
Perhaps only Australians know the Xbox 360's charm, or perhaps it is due to the ever-perplexing exchange rate (PS3) and supply chain (Wii) conundrum that leads Australians to the Xbox 360.
Whatever it is, for Australians it seems the favoured current-generation console for the beach house this summer is the Xbox 360.
But that probably won't please Microsoft too much, Australian sales figure by comparison to other markets are minisclue. Compare the following week ending Nov 11 figures.
Xbox 360 174K
Xbox 360 6K