Is Sony's PS3 Really a Sinking Ship?

CNN has declared Sony's PS3 "a sinking ship" riffing off last Thursday's "plummeting" NPD sales results. CNN bases its gloomy diagnosis on Sony's sales plunge of 19 points, compared to sales in November 2007. That's a fair criticism, but it isolates a superficially negative statistic while ignoring the fact that this November only included two days of post-holiday sales (11/28 - 11/29) compared to last year's eight total (11/23 - 11/30). I'm speculating here, but if you could adjust for that difference, it's very likely PS3 sales would have increased, however slightly, year-over-year.

What's more, Sony rightly points out that the PS3 has seen hardware sales grow 60% year-to-date. I realize the PS3 wasn't selling well in 2007, so that figure's less impressive than it sounds, but growth is growth, any way you slice it. What's more, look at PS3 and Xbox 360 units sold in total worldwide, and Sony pretty much throughout 2008 has actually been playing catchup.

Then there's the PlayStation brand overall, which when you factor in the PSP and PS2, topped 1 million units, more than the Xbox 360's 836,000. The PlayStation brand has in fact pretty easily muscled past the Xbox brand practically every month since the PS3's launch. Sony's margins on the PSP and PS2 are almost certainly better than the PS3's, so which company's actually been more profitable in overall unit sales is less obvious than it seems.

On the other hand, CNN's whacking the nail on the head when it raises the problem of the PlayStation 3's price. The recession's been on well and long enough for Sony to have reacted by now, and yet it's stubbornly clung to that $400 entry point. Had it dropped the PS3's price to $300 or even $350 it's a safe bet October and November's numbers would've tallied much more favorably. Both Microsoft and Sony have a solid stable of exclusives, and both have interesting companion services, but it's price and not NXE/Netflix or PlayStation Home that's deciding the battle at the moment.

Quick points...

CNN's right that the video-game industry isn't recession proof. Nothing is. The rest of us saying as much merely mean "recession-proof-so-far," which it clearly is compared to other ebbing economic indices.

CNN says the differences between Blu-ray and DVD are hard to see on a TV less than 50". I suppose that'd be true if your eyes are somehow genetically fixed at 720 x 480 (NTSC). For the rest of us, Blu-ray at even 720p (1280 x 720) with all its other commensurate upticks in sample rates and color quality is shockingly better than the visuals output of the average DVD.

And finally, "the PS3 just doesn't have any must-have titles exclusive to the console." Really? I guess CNN's not familiar (or perhaps just not partial to) exclusives like Metal Gear Solid 4, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Ratchet & Clank Future, Wipeout HD, Valkyria Chronicles, the original Resistance: Fall of Man (twice the game the sequel is, in my opinion), and MLB 08: The Show. When you're talking new unit sales, you count the whole history of notable exclusives, not just the last month or two of holiday attention-grabbers.

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