PS3 1st Year A Failure?

Never have I seen a gaming system be as widely criticized and hated on as the PS3 between it unveiling back in May 2005 and the end of 2007, a year after it's November 2006 release. Hardcore gamers and gaming press would bad mouth it as if they were paid too, consistently pointing to lack of features compared to the competition, high price, and "No games" as reasons to not buy the system. The criticism went much farther than simply recommending its competitors as the PS3 literally was the laughing stock of the industry and Sony simply could do no right. Many times I've heard of casual people walking into a game store and asking "What about the PS3?" and the clerk responding with a chuckle saying "Nobody's buying it! It's too expensive and has no games. Xbox360 is much better". The impression most had was that the PS3 had a horrible 1st year, with a launch that resulted in its limited hardware not even selling out weeks after release, limited software released, limited online network (compared to Xbox live). and not a single "big" game that could come close to the software released on the Xbox360 like as Gears of War and Halo 3.

No doubt it was a tough 2006-2007 for Sony and things are already looking way up for 2008 (more on this in a future post). But was 2007 really that bad for Sony and the PS3? Should the launch of the PS3 go down in the gaming books as one to remember and laugh at or cry about (depending on which side you're on)? To answer this, we'll look at the hard facts and evaluate this by the most important criteria for gaming hardware: SALES.

Here is a chart showing a comparison between the worldwide sales of the PS3 and Xbox360 in their respective 1st years of availability:


Note:Wii=blue, Xbox360 = green, PS3=red
The origin is the aligned launch dates of each system and the X-axis is month (1 month increments)

Calender Year 2007 Worldwide Totals
PS3 = 7,628,951
Xbox360 = 8,162,707

Both pieces of data are from vgchartz.com and are not official numbers but good approximations.

So what can we gather from these two pieces of data? Let's start with the graph. I'm not including the Wii in this discussion A) because there's no doubt that the Wii is outselling both of its competitors by a sizeable margin and B) given the nature of the hardware systems and their intended audiences, the Wii is not considered a direct competitor to the Xbox360 or Ps3. But it's clear to see that the PS3 sales within its 1st year is virtually identical to that of the Xbox360 for the same duration. In fact, the PS3 is currently selling at a faster pace than the Xbox360 did at the same point as discussed in this article. The 2007 numerical totals are approximations and cannot be taken literally, but we can conclude that the numbers for the PS3 and Xbox360 are very close and virtually equal.

So what does this mean and why is it significant? Well, for one it shows that the PS3 did not have a bad 1st year at all compared its primary competition. In fact, the PS3 is selling on par with the PS2 which 8 years after its release is still selling strong (how strong? How about outselling the Xbox360 for the month of Feb 2008). The PS2 is the highest selling non-handheld system of all time, surpassing the original Nintendo and PS1, so that is a very nice path for the PS3 to be on thus far.

But come on, what's significant about how close these numbers are? Well let's think about this. 2007 was apparently a horrible year for the PS3. The facts are that it was ridiculed by the press and fans alike, its price was way higher than the competition, and there was precious little software to play. All of that was true. Meanwhile, 2007 was arguably the best year for the Xbox360 to date and it was so good that many debate whether any future year for the system will be able to top it. In terms of the number of A quality games released on the system in 2007, the Xbox360 arguably had one of the best years in gaming for any system period. Dozens of games sold more than a million units and rated higher than 90% on the system last year than any other system in recent memory. Blockbusters like Gears of War, Bioshock, Forza 2, Halo 3, Assassin's Creed, and Call of Duty 4 are just a few of the juggernauts the Xbox360 enjoyed last year. If there ever was a time for the Xbox360 to distance itself from the PS3, that would have been it. But....it didn't! Despite favoritism from the press, retailers, and fans, tons of marketing from Microsoft, and a "weak" launch from the PS3, the PS3 still remained about even with it through the year?! What? How?!

Well the key that most people don't take into consideration is that simply, videogames aren't only played in America. While Microsoft (an American company) has enjoyed a pretty sizeable advantage in terms of sales over Sony in America, Sony enjoys a sales advantage is just about every other major territory in the world, including Europe and Japan. Here's some numbers to illustrate the point:

2007 North America:
Xbox360 = 5.2 million
PS3 = 2.7 million

2007 Europe, Australia, and Other
Xbox360 = 2.7 million
PS3 = 3.7 million (PS3 wasn't released in Europe until March 07)

2007 Japan
Xbox360 = 0.2 million
PS3 = 1.2 million

So is the PS3 a failure? Not at all. Is it doing poorly? Not compared to its main competitor and predecessor. Did it meet expectations out the gate? Probably not! The PS3 was a victim of its own hype more than anything else. Was the Xbox360 the better buy for a gamer in 2007? Definitely! But Sony hasn't been #1 for the past 10 years for no reason. After releasing firmware updates monthly to upgrade the system capabilities, dropping the price twice within the 1st year, and releasing some great games towards the end of 2007 the PS3 is riding a steady stream of momentum currently and it looks like its worst days are far behind it. In fact, it outsold the Xbox360 in North America in January and February of 2008. The war is far from over!

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