Wii All Fall Down: PS3 Outsells Wii

Wiis themselves are not falling of course, but their sales are down in Japan. Why discuss Wii sales in Japan? Because Japan is the only one of the big three markets that we can get hold of actual sales numbers for. Why talk at all about declining Wii sales? Because they are part of the reason for the PS3 having outsold the Wii in Japan for the second month in a row. In March the PS3 sold over 116,000 units whilst the Wii sold almost 70,000. This builds upon PS3’s sales success in February which saw it achieving sales of 87,000, beating the Wii by 11,000.

This is a big change from the stories we were reading last year about how the PS3 was doomed because it was being outsold 3-to-1, 4-to-1 or even 6-to-1 by the Wii. What has prompted this turn around in sales fortunes? As I have already mentioned, one cause is a slowdown in sales of the Wii. January was a tough month in Japan for all the consoles. For the four weeks beginning with the week ending 11th January, the Wii saw its sales almost halve from 41,000 to 23,000. The PS3’s sales fell too, by around a third, from 28,000 to 17,500.

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By late February, both the PS3 and Wii were selling around 17,000 a week. But things changed dramatically for the PS3 in the final week of the month with the release of Yakuza 3. That one software release more than doubled sales of the PS3 to almost 36,500. Wii sales remained flat, and that one week’s strong sales lead for the PS3 was enough to hand it the home console sales crown for February. The following week saw the release of Resident Evil 5 and this pushed PS3 sales even higher, to almost 40,000. By the end of March sales had fallen back to 23,000, but that was still 5,500 higher than the Wii, which had continued to sell around 17,000 each week throughout the month.

All of which reiterates the fact that it is not really the hardware that counts, it is what the developers do with it. People buy consoles for the games that are available on them or that they expect to become available on them. If those games are also platform exclusives, all the better. Those two sequels to popular franchises have given PS3 sales in Japan two great months. For those two weeks (the weeks ending 1st March and 8th March) the PS3 outsold all the other home consoles (Wii, 360 and PS2) combined. They have got the gaming and mainstream press talking about PS3 sales success for almost the first time. To find a previous weekly sales win for the PS3 you have to look back first to the start of last November, when Japan saw the release of GTA IV, LittleBigPlanet, GT5P Spec III and the 80GB PS3 all in the same week. You then have to go back another year, to November 2007, to find another win. That week it was all about hardware though as the 40GB PS3 had just launched and the Wii was suffering from supply being unable to keep up with demand.

Of course, it is not just PS3 which benefits from big software releases. The 360 had a relatively great week in Japan towards the end of February when Squeenix’s Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope was released. It sold almost 25,500 that week outselling the PS3 and Wii which sold 16,000 and 17,000 respectively. It also saw a rise in sales upon the release of Resi 5, though the only home console it could muster enough sales to outsell was the PS2. The Wii has not seen any significant games released since Christmas, but the big test to see whether there are many Japanese households still without Nintendo’s little white box will come shortly, with the release of Monster Hunter G. The Japanese go nuts for Monster Hunter titles, so if any game due to hit the Tokyo streets in the next few months will give the Wii a significant sales boost, that will be it.

There is one difference that has stood out while reading various stories around the web over the last two days about the PS3’s sales success, which some of you may have also read about yourselves, possibly via the link to the BBC’s coverage which kur15u posted in the forums. Some of those stories state that this March was the first time that PS3 has outsold the Wii for sixteen months, or since November 2007. Whereas others, like I have here, celebrate PS3 coming out on top for a second consecutive month. Both viewpoints cannot all be correct, can they?

Well, it turns out they are and it all depends on differences in how the same sales are counted. Japan’s weekly hardware sales figures are published by Media Create and are summed into the monthly figures I have already presented where the four weeks to 29th March are counted as the month of March. However, monthly sales figures for Japan are also published by Enterbrain, the company behind the well known Famitsu magazine. Enterbrain’s figures for March include the five weeks to 29th March, which includes the week that ran from Monday 23rd February to Sunday 1st March. So the differences in the reports boil down to whether March was a four or five week long month.

No matter how sales are counted, the PS3 is enjoying a strong start to 2009 in Japan thanks to the release of some big games.  That’s good news for Sony now which will hopefully translate into good news for all PlayStation fans in the long run.

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