Microsoft’s Xbox Blows Wii U’s First-Week Sales Out of the Water

Microsoft said today that its seven-year-old Xbox 360 outsold the Nintendo Wii U during the new console’s first week on sale.

In a blog post, Larry Hryb — a Microsoft spokesperson who blogs under his gamer tag, Major Nelson — reported that the Xbox 360 sold more than 750,000 consoles in the U.S. last week, easily beating Wii U first-week sales of 400,000. What’s more, it exceeds the 700,000 units Nintendo sold of the Wii U and the original Wii combined.

In some ways, however, the two numbers are not really comparable.

The Wii U, which launched last Sunday, costs between $300 and $350, and Microsoft is selling the Xbox for a number of configurations starting at half that price. Additionally, sales of the Wii U were limited by the number of units Nintendo could manufacturer, with many retailers reporting that inventory was sold out.

Microsoft said that the 750,000 consoles it sold between Sunday, Nov. 18 (when the Wii U launched) and Black Friday exceeded its internal forecasts. At that rate, the numbers are absolutely staggering, especially given the amount of pressure that phones and tablets are putting on the TV consoles as alternative gaming devices. Last month, Microsoft sold 270,000 Xbox units, making it the best-selling console in the U.S. at the time.

But access to streaming media and other entertainment is helping to drive sales of the older hardware. As Major Nelson pointed out today, Microsoft’s three-month Xbox Live Gold Subscription sales increased more than 50 percent, compared to the same week last year. On Sunday, its Xbox Live services — which include streaming video and multiplayer game play — were used by more than 14 million people, racking up more than 72 million hours worldwide. Compared to 2011, Microsoft has seen a 43 percent increase in U.S. hours logged on Xbox Live during the week of Black Friday.

I asked Sony for its sales figures for the past week, but the company has not responded to the request.

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— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik