The PlayStation 3 has the Momentary Edge in the Console War

The PS3 has the current edge in the console war thanks to a price cut and new model.

It has been a long and painful road for Sony these past few years in the game industry. But thanks to the release of the new "Slim" model and the recent drop in price, Sony’s PlayStation 3 has finally gotten the edge in the current-gen console war.

Ever since its launch in 2006, the PS3 has been technologically superior to the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii, but has suffered due its high price tag. The $599 price for the PS3 was considered far too steep for most gamers early in its life cycle, as they preferred to spend their money on the $399 Xbox 360 or $249 Wii. 

Sony has since dropped the price of the PS3 almost incrementally every year from $599 to $499 and eventually $399. However all of this did not have a huge significance considering the Wii and Xbox 360 were still at the same price, with Microsoft featuring different models at cheaper prices.

This long time as the most expensive console has hurt the PlayStation 3 as it has lost exclusives such as Grand Theft Auto IV and Final Fantasy XIII and has given Microsoft a chance to make its own hit exclusives to separate it from the PS3. Meanwhile, the Wii took away casual gamers due to games like Wii Sports and Wii Fit.

The price drops helped the PS3 close in on the Xbox 360 while the Wii continued to sail away from both, but Sony still trailed Microsoft by approximately six million total units sold worldwide. Sony was catching up and selling more units during its second year than Microsoft, but more people still owned the Xbox 360 and were buying the Xbox 360 versions of games and exclusives more than the PS3.

Things started looking worse for Sony after the September 2008 recession hit. Sony had lowered the price of the PS3 to $399 that year, but it was believed that if people wouldn’t buy the console for $499 when the economy was in good shape, why would they buy it for $100 less if the economy was dwindling.

This mindset combined with the feeling that it was more cost-effective to produce games for the Xbox 360 and Wii led to Activision’s CEO Bobby Kotick threatening Sony to lower the price again or else lose support from the company. This was coming off the heels of what many considered a lackluster E3 performance by the PS3 that had people wondering whether or not Sony was on a path to follow in the footsteps of Sega.

Instead of stay stubborn on their high price, Sony finally decided to do what had to be done. But how they have done it is what has now, for the first time ever in this console war, given them the slight edge.

On August 18, Sony announced not only a price cut but a new model that would retail at the same lower price. This put the PS3 and the new PlayStation 3 "Slim" at $299, the same price as the now $299 Xbox 360 Elite and only $50 more expensive than the $249 Wii.

Suddenly the price difference that had been a lingering issue for the PS3 since its inception was now gone. The issue is now out of the equation when you compare consoles. And the numbers are showing that it was the main factor for several people.

The week following the price drop saw a 104 percent increase in PS3 sales in America and 35 percent worldwide. The week after, the first week the "Slim" model went on sale, saw a 400 percent increase in sales for the console with a 1,000 percent increase in Europe.

The PlayStation 3 has vastly outsold the Xbox 360 over these past two weeks and has outsold its versions of multi-platform games over the Xbox 360. It has put itself out as the primary console as far as sales for the first time since a brief stint in its first holiday season of sales back in 2006.

So at the moment the PlayStation 3, as far as sales and a technological standpoint, has the edge in the console war and has a chance to take a strong hold without letting go. However there are still plenty of issues and factors to be weighed in on to see if this edge will last.

There is the fact that the Xbox 360 arguably has a much better exclusive lineup than the PS3 with games like Left 4 Dead 2, Mass Effect 2, Halo 3: ODST, Alan Wake, and Splinter Cell: Conviction competing with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, God of War III, Heavy Rain, and DC Universe Online. All of these games are due out by the end of the first quarter of 2010.

One other major factor is the online network. Xbox Live has dominated online play and just how an internet network for a console should work for years. And despite Sony’s recent attempts to combat Xbox Live with the PlayStation Network’s Firmware 3.0 update, it has already faced criticism for its failure to be a "major" update and its tendency to freeze certain PS3 games. Sony has said it is looking into the situation and hopes it can fix the problems soon.

There is also the rumors of a price drop on the Nintendo Wii coming as soon as October. That, combined with the upcoming release of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, could derail the PS3 and put the Wii back on top.

So for the moment the PlayStation 3 does have the edge in the console war and the sales show it. But whether it can hold on and get a firm grasp or slip up and fall once again is yet to be seen.

[Information on console and game sales in this column based off of figures from VGChartz]


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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