Like a good soccer match, the monthly sales battles between the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 2 have a lot of exciting back-and-forth. So far, however, the PlayStation 2 has remained in control of the match, outselling the Xbox 360 in six of the seven months since the Xbox 360’s debut. The situation is a strong reminder that Sony’s PS3 gamble, while huge, has a little more cushioning than is commonly recognized.
Since the release of the Xbox 360, Microsoft has averaged 246,000 console sales each month in the US, while the PS2 has seen an average of 473,000 units—a number bolstered by an estimated 1.5 million sales in December alone. Leaving out December, Sony’s average drops to 302,000 per month, still outpacing the Xbox 360 by a healthy margin.
According to sales estimates from the NPD Group (conveniently collected here and here), the Xbox 360 won its first sales victory against the PS2 in April, outselling Sony’s offering by nearly 90,000 units (295,000 units in all). The end of Microsoft’s supply problems may have accounted for the leap in sales, but May estimates showed a return to more settled buying trends: Xbox sales decreased by 74,000 units, while the PS2 climbed to more than 231,000 units total, recapturing the lead with roughly 11,000 more consoles sold.
In short, Sony’s PS2 sales remain remarkably strong, and with recent price cuts trimming the system down to US$129, sales are expected to stay strong throughout the year. Sony has sold more than 100 million PS2s, and this year they can expect to add another three million from the US market alone. The PS2 market isn’t "winding down" in any meaningful sense.
In closing, I should note that we caution against putting too much weight on these sales estimates, especially in a comparative sense. The PS2 and the Xbox 360 are at opposite ends of their "console lifecycles," and the two are priced quite far apart as well (e.g., $129 vs. $299, PS2, Xbox 360 Core respectively). We are impressed, however, by the PS2’s continually strong sales, even as many gamers turn their eyes towards the next-generation. These sales will help keep Sony strong and stable, even in the face of a disappointing PlayStation 3 launch, should fate take that turn.
We’re not suggesting that it will. To the contrary, Sony’s track record in this area is hard to bet against, even factoring in the questionable decision to push Blu-ray. As long as PS2 sales remain this strong, Sony can weather bumps in the road, should there be any.