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PS3 global total snaps at 360's heels

Sony's dogs Move faster than Microsoft's.

Global sales of PlayStation 3 aren't far off those of Xbox 360. And Sony is gaining on Microsoft.

The latest numbers (based on sales up to 30th September 2010) show the rival consoles only five million units apart: 39.2 million PlayStation 3s to 44.6 million Xbox 360s.

But globally PlayStation is selling faster: Sony recorded 3.5 million PS3 sales from the start of July to the end of September whereas Microsoft reported 2.8 million Xbox 360 sales.

PS3 launched a year after the Xbox 360 in the US, and even later in Europe. And while Microsoft may enjoy a current lead in the US hardware charts, on the other side of the world the PS3 reigns supreme - the Japanese barely register the Xbox 360.

The battle of this autumn's motion sensors Move (PS3) and Kinect (Xbox 360) may prove decisive. Sony's just-released money report said both PS3 hardware and software "benefited" from the mid-September (US, Europe) arrival of PlayStation Move. The numbers back this up: between January and March 2.2 million PlayStation 3 console were sold; between April and June 2.4 million were sold; and between July and September 3.5 million were sold.

Sony has billed PlayStation Move as a slow-burner whereas Microsoft is going for a big-splash entry with Kinect next month. If what Sony said about Move demand outstripping manufacturing in the US is true, we may have a proper Tortoise and the Hare-style battle ahead.

Sony noted an $85 million profit (operating income) today for the Networked Product and Services division that houses PlayStation. During the same July-September period last year, that number was a frown: a loss of $731 million. Sony picked out the "strong performance" of PS3 and its "significant hardware cost reductions and higher sales" as a major reason why things improved.

Sony's other machines - the PS2 and PSP - were bought 1.5 million times apiece during those three months. But it's Sony's old PS2 that has the yearly edge, having shifted 4.8 million consoles since January compared to PSP's 4.1 million.

Around the world, 35.3 million PlayStation 3 games were bought between July and the end of September. PSP game sales dipped to 11 million and PS2 game sales halved to 5.6 million.

Sony reckons that by March 2011, PS3 will have sold 15 million consoles, PSP 8 million and PS2 6 million. Sony's financial year starts in April; with half of it gone the PlayStation 3 count stands at 5.9 million - only 9.1 million to go!

Can Sony do it? Well, between October and the end of December 2009, Sony sold 6.5 million PS3s. A similar performance this Christmas would leave only 2.6 million to sell early next year.

Sony's total company take for the three months ending 30th September was $20.9 billion. That breaks down into Consumer, Professional & Devices ($10.7 billion), Networked Products and Services ($4.4 billion), Financial Services ($2.7 billion), Sony Pictures ($1.7 billion) and Sony Music ($1.3 billion). Doesn't quite add up, but I've rounded a couple of numbers because this isn't a maths exam.