While Sony have Europe more or less to themselves for the second Christmas running and build up an increasingly impressive looking headstart on their competitors, the console war is already well underway in America. Both Xbox and GameCube launched in the USA a few weeks ago, and first blood has gone to .. well, it's hard to say really.
Pick A Number, Any Number
First past the post was Nintendo, claiming victory just two days after their GameCube was officially made available in America. Around 600,000 Cubes were shipped in the USA on launch day, and according to Nintendo combined hardware and software sales tallied up to $98m. More than the Harry Potter movie made in its first weekend, as the Japanese company was quick to point out. No sales figures were given, but as a Cube with two games and a memory card comes to around $320, this would put actual sales at a rather less impressive 300,000. About on a par with Microsoft then, which had rapidly sold out its meagre launch day supply of Xboxes. Given that the GameCube was inexplicably launched on a Sunday though, this was still a solid start. And the barrage of press releases from Nintendo continued a few days later, as they claimed to have sold "more than one half million" Cubes over its first full week on sale. Meanwhile Microsoft were making much of the fact that gamers were apparently buying an average of 2.4 games with their Xboxes, compared to 1.9 for both the GameCube and PS2 launches. But with all due respect to the Xbox's solid launch line-up, the fact that most retailers were only selling the console in bundles including two or more games, allegedly at the insistence of none other than Microsoft, may have had something to do with this...
Lies, Damned Lies, And Statistics
And the dubious statistics kept on coming. With Nintendo sales tapering off, Microsoft declared that after two weeks on sale "the Xbox .. had the best-selling video game console launch on record", with "more than 100,000 units a week" being delivered to retailers to keep up with demand. In fact it must have been much more than 100,000 extra units a week, because yesterday Microsoft claimed to have shipped 1.1 million Xboxes to retailers in just three weeks, compared to an initial supply of as little as 350,000 according to most industry observers. Microsoft still aren't saying how many of these consoles have actually been sold on to customers so far, but they do seem happy with their performance. Xbox CEO Robbie Bach delved deep into his thesaurus before announcing that the console had got off to a "torrid" start. Our dictionary defines torrid as "parched" or "highly emotional". Considering the initial supply problems, we're not entirely sure which of these meanings Robbie was grasping for. Sony weren't about to be left out of the fun either, issuing a press release last week to celebrate selling another 638,000 PlayStation 2 consoles between November 19th and the end of the month. Which, if the numbers are true, means that it was selling at least as fast during this period as either of the new kids on the block. More than six million Americans now own a PlayStation 2, according to Sony, while Nintendo and Microsoft both expect to ship over a million of their own consoles by the end of the year.
So with almost a month gone since the Xbox and GameCube launched in America, Microsoft, Nintendo and even Sony have all claimed victory. And perhaps they are all right, in a warped sense. While the numbers being bandied about are largely meaningless and at times highly dubious, the fact is that all three consoles have been selling strongly in the last few weeks. Maybe the gaming industry has finally matured enough to support three consoles. If so, it's good news for European gamers, who can look forward to strong pushes from all three manufacturers when the Xbox and GameCube launch here next year.