The NPD Group released sales figures for the month of September, and there are a number of surprises.
First, the PlayStation 3 has outsold the Xbox 360 for the first time in 32 months. While this isn’t necessarily a major turning point, it is still a milestone for Sony’s once beleaguered system. Released later than its competition and at a significantly higher price, the PS3 long struggled to make headway against the Xbox 360 in North America. That extra year allowed Microsoft to establish an early lead and to later widen that gap through studio acquisitions, exclusivity agreements and some very smart targeting of specific developers and publishers.
High-profile, big name releases like BioShock, Mass Effect and The Orange Box all hit the Xbox 360 first. These were massive, massive titles that could truly justify the “Only on Xbox 360” stamp, and if they were to appear on PS3, it was anywhere from two months to a year later. Microsoft also successfully lured away the single biggest former third-party PlayStation-exclusive franchise: Final Fantasy.
Unfortunately, there was little Sony could do to stop the bleeding. It had to focus on making the PS3 profitable. This meant lowering production costs and resisting the calls for significant price cuts. The past year or two, we’ve seen the strategy starting to work, with the system starting to turn around. That said, this generation has been tough for the PS3, so it’s nice to see the September sales bump.
The second surprise is that the Nintendo 3DS managed to outsell both consoles for the fifth consecutive month. This is impressive by any metric, and it further solidifies Nintendo’s dominance of the handheld market and highlights a surprising reality: the 3DS is being compared to the Xbox 360 and PS3, while its most direct competitor, the PlayStation Vita, is not mentioned at all. The Vita is still selling, of course, but the 3DS has turned into an absolute sales monster that can rival the home consoles. Truly, the scariest part about this is that Pokemon X and Y have only been out for two weeks so far, and the holiday season is quickly approaching.
Finally, the Xbox 360 reached 80 million consoles sold to retailers worldwide. This firmly places it within the top five highest-selling consoles to date and within the top 10 highest-selling home and handheld dedicated games platforms.