PlayStation 3: A Second Place Finish

PlayStation 3: A Second Place Finish

Sony and Microsoft have been very slow to show their hands for the upcoming console generation, but we may as well shrug and declare the winner for this generation: Nintendo. The Wii demolished the sales charts over the months and years of its existence, and even though its longevity leaves a lot to be desired, neither the Xbox 360 nor the PlayStation 3 is likely to catch up before the Wii U hits the market and the next console generation officially begins.

So let’s just sit back and take a good look at which company will win the race to be this generation’s lesser loser (kidding).

For a long time, the Xbox 360’s position in second place seemed assured: Even the Red Ring epidemic couldn’t slow down sales of Microsoft’s system. By contrast, the PlayStation 3 had a slow start because of high prices and a game library that was initially lacking in compelling exclusives. And whereas demand for DVD playback was a huge boost for the PlayStation 2, folks haven’t been as enthusiastic about the PlayStation 3’s Blu-ray capabilities (competition from streaming video is no doubt a factor, and Netflix is accessible on any modern game console or PC).

But now several industry analysts are predicting that the PlayStation 3 may well come in second once the last horse has crossed the line in the current console race. Jesse Divnich of EEDAR pointed out to IndustryGamers that the Xbox 360’s worldwide lead over the PlayStation 3 is 5%–not a difficult gap to close, especially since Sony and Microsoft are taking their time on the PlayStation 4 and the next Xbox.

“Additionally, if one looks at the total amount of sales through the first 6 months of 2011, the PlayStation 3 has sold about 10% more than the Xbox 360, worldwide, so the PlayStation 3 is definitely gaining ground,” Divnich said.

And Colin Sebastian of RW Baird notes that the Xbox 360 has a nice “tailwind” thanks to Kinect, but believes sales of the PlayStation 3 might even vault over Microsoft’s motion control system given the right circumstances. “[A]s quickly as the tide changes in the video game industry, you would never want to count the PS3 out – for instance, if Sony combined a strong first party lineup (e.g. Uncharted/Resistance) with another hardware price reduction, I believe we would see a nice pick-up in unit sales this fall,” he said.

Indeed, the PlayStation 3 stands a very good chance of taking second place before too long. This year’s holiday season will be telling: If we get a price drop, the PlayStation 3 might end up being the must-by game system of the winter. Not a bad job for a system that took a distant third for months and months after its initial release.

Sony is doubtlessly happy about the PlayStation 3’s endurance–and probably a little relieved, too. Truth be told, even though the Wii’s momentum is running out, Sony and Microsoft still had reason to envy the hot burst of sales that followed the system’s release. No matter how you look at it, a strong start is preferable to biting one’s nails over an expensive console’s slow shuffle off the shelves. Regardless, Sony’s over-engineering of the PlayStation 3 has helped keep the console looking young while the lesser specs running the Xbox 360 and Wii are causing the systems to look a bit long in the tooth.

There’s a reason why the story of the tortoise and the hare is a classic. Sometimes slow and steady does win the race–or at least lets you come in at a respectable second.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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