Microsoft (MSFT) finally got the bragging rights it’s been looking for all year. Its Xbox 360 has defeated the Nintendo Wii — at least for the month of September.
For the first time this year, Microsoft sold more consoles in a single month than the red-hot Wii. Hard-core gamers just had to have the new Halo 3, and the Xbox 360 was the only console that could play it. Anticipation of the late-September release of the new game drove 528,000 Xbox sales in the U.S., edging out the family-friendly, low-budget Wii, which sold 501,000 units in September, according to figures released Thursday by the NPD Group.
And how did Halo 3 do?
The third and final title in the massively popular 3-game series not only crushed all other video games in September, it set a new record for first-day sales in any entertainment medium. Microsoft, which released the fierce, first-person shooter on Sept. 25, moved 3.3 million copies in the 12-day measuring period that ended Oct. 6. Halo had already grossed $170 million worldwide in the 24 hours after its release, setting a record for the highest grossing opening day in entertainment history, according to GamePro.
Nintendo took the distant No. 2 and 3 spots with 282,000 copies of “Wii Play with Remote” and 224,000 copies of “Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.”
“We knew Halo was going to be a blockbuster and that it was going to move a lot of consoles,” says Xbox spokesman David Dennis. “This is exactly what we expected. We said at E3 [in July] that we have the best holiday lineup compared to our competitors.”
The Xbox is in a good position to give the Wii a run for the top spot for the whole year. Two weeks ago Nintendo said it would not likely ship enough Wiis to the U.S. to meet holiday demand. Meanwhile, the Xbox continues to ride the Halo effect, and Microsoft’s lined up another potential hit game, Mass Effect. The highly-anticipated Xbox exclusive heads to stores on Nov. 20.
Sony (SNE) has shifted its retail strategy to catch up with Nintendo and Microsoft. Yesterday it slashed its price of the PlayStation 3 by $100 to help boost declining U.S. sales. In July, Microsoft dropped the price of the entry-level Xbox by $50 to $349, and U.S. sales jumped 56% the following month. Sony hopes to do the same. It sold 119,000 PS3s in September compared to 131,000 consoles the month prior.
The top-line version of the PS3 will cost $499 compared to $599, and a new cheaper version will go on sale for $399 on Nov. 2.
“Lowering the price is an important first step for Sony,” says Colin Sebastian, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets. “From a consumer’s point of view, $399 is a lot better than $499. But Sony still needs to find compelling software. It has to find a killer app the way Xbox has with Halo 3 or Wii Sports for Nintendo.”
Last month at the Tokyo Game Show industry conference Sony outlined a strategy by working better with third-party gaming publishers to bulk up its lineup of games.