Xbox Remains Top Console in U.S., but PlayStation’s Strength Is Global

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has been the bestselling videogame console in the U.S. every month for more than two years.

xbox_380There’s no doubt about it’s strength in the U.S., but internationally, it’s not so clear how the seven-year old game console is faring, especially in comparison to Sony’s PlayStation. 

Microsoft sold 281,000 Xbox 360 units in January, up 4.1 percent from 270,000 a year ago, according to the NPD Group, which tracks sales of video-game software, hardware and accessories in the U.S. that occur at retail.

Earlier this week at D: Dive Into Media, Yusuf Mehdi, who leads Microsoft’s interactive entertainment business, also provided an update based on internal data.

He said the overall Xbox installed base is now at 76 million, up from 70 million at the end of September of last year. Also, 24 million Kinects have been sold, up from 20 million last year, and there are 46 million Xbox Live accounts, up from 40 million.

Sales continue to be brisk because the company has been successful at moving beyond a hard-core gaming audience to serve members of the family who like other forms of entertainment, such as streaming video or music.

But the rivalry between the different console makers is particularly intense right now as the industry waits for the next-generation devices to launch.

The Nintendo Wii U was the first to launch this holiday season, but has had a relatively lackluster performance. Next week, Sony is planning to unveil its new home videogame console at an event in New York. But Microsoft has remained mum on its plans for any potential Xbox 720. Earlier this week, Mehdi refused to budge on the subject. “I’ll politely decline any comment,” he said.

So, the question is, will Sony’s PlayStation 4 be well received?

If global trends are any indication, it’s possible. Based on numbers culled from the three company’s earnings reports, Geekwire was able to determine that the PlayStation 3 was the best-selling home console worldwide during the holidays.

Sales of the PS2 and PS3 totaled 6.8 million units for the December quarter to beat the number of Nintendo Wii and Wii U units sold (5.3 million), and the number of units reported by Microsoft for the Xbox 360 (5.9 million).

For the full year, the two PlayStation devices together sold 15.6 million units worldwide, compared with 8 million for Nintendo and about 11 million for the Xbox 360.

In other words, Sony continues to have a very strong worldwide presence for the PlayStation, compared to the Xbox which seems to dominate in the U.S.

Overall, however, the hardware sector remains fairly weak. Most executives in the videogame industry believe a new wave of hardware is needed to spur consumer interest again, while others believe that gamers are less attached to the living room than they were before and prefer gaming wherever they are from their phone or tablet.

NPD reported that sales of hardware in January were down 17 percent year over year when taking into account that the month had five weeks instead of four.


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