Thursday, January 04, 2007


I'm not sure it's really meaningful to call the Wii, 360, and PS3 "next-gen" at this point. They're current gen, and everything else is last-gen. And with the new year, the embargo is over, although I'm going to limit posts about this to (at most) once a week. So that's the new "semi-embargo."

If you're wondering what it looks like for last-gen consoles in terms of releases, here are the numbers according to EBGames for 2007:
Xbox: 1. That's "one."
Gamecube: 5.
PS2: 29. And I suspect that number is actually a bit higher, because nothing is listed beyond April 16.

This brings up an interesting question, which is at what point does the PS2 become obsolete? I would argue that the traditional rate of decline--for instance, from the original Playstation to the PS2--is meaningless, because the PS3 costs 2X at launch as the PS2 did. Not to mention that a PS3 at $599 is almost 5X the price of a new PS2.

In other words, the old rules are no longer rules.

In spite of all the industry analysts pulling numbers out of their hats (well, the hats have cheeks), the truth is that everyone is guessing now, and they're guessing big. But I think it's safe to say that the PS2 is going to be commercially lucrative as a development platform for at least 12-18 months longer than anyone expected.

One thing we do know is that there are plenty of PS3's available right now. I called a Best Buy on Tuesday and they said they had fifteen in stock. The Best Buy website? In stock. Circuit City website? In stock. Amazon website? In stock.

Amazon and Best Buy are even selling them naked--without a bundle, in other words. Circuit City had a bundle with two games, but they list each item individually, and you can remove both games before you check out.

The only electronics-dedicated retailer that I could find selling an obscene bundle was GameStop. Looking at the embarrassing dimensions of their bundle (so to speak), it may be necessary to rename the chain GameRape.

In general, though, this country is lousy with PS3's. Did Sony pull off some miraculous manufacturing ramp? Hardly. Yes, they're probably shipping more units on a weekly basis now, but they're also having to stockpile units for the March launch in Europe.

And just as a reminder, when Sony trumpets its January numbers, remember that they're talking about units shipped to retailers, not units actually sold. Big, big difference. They have a demand problem, and all the PR in the world isn't going to fix it.

Wii's? Forget it. Good luck finding one of those bad boys. People are still freaking lining up for the Wii.

Here's what VG Charts (which seem to be reasonably accurate) has listed as the current, worldwide installed base for the three consoles:
Xbox 360: 8.13 million
Nintendo Wii: 3.83 million
Sony PS3: 1.31 million

So in six weeks, Nintendo has reached almost HALF of the 360's 13-month installed base. And they've essentially tripled the PS3's installed base.

More importantly for Sony, why would this gap narrow? The PS3, even in its lowest incarnation, costs twice what the Wii costs. Oh, and the Wii is "fun," which Sony apparently regards as some kind of disadvantage.

It's not just Sony that has a problem. Nintendo will not only pass the 360 this generation, but they'll pass them by Christmas this year. Microsft has done a very good job of positioning themselves against Sony, but they just didn't expect the Wii to get this kind of reception. After Sony initially announced the price of the PS3, Microsoft was even promoting Nintendo (the Wii360 as an alternative to the PS3, remember?).

Well, that whole "buy a Wii" thing went pretty well for Microsoft, but instead of buying a 360 as well, lots and lots of people just bought a Wii. And both the 360 and the PS3 have zero buzz going for them right now.

What can Microsoft and Sony do? Well, they can drop their prices on both the console and the games. Failing that, not much. Halo 3 will sell systems--in November. Final Fantasy XIII will sell PS3's--in 2008.

The PS3's software lineup, actually, looks very strong this year, depending on how many of the games actually ship. At $599, though, it's not nearly strong enough.

Here's when you know that Nintendo is officially going to "win" this generation in terms of installed base: when Microsoft and Sony start arguing that the Wii isn't really even a competitor. That's when you'll know they've thrown in the towel.

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