For the first time, the Sony PlayStation 3 was the monthly top-selling video game console, a mark that has been nearly three years in the making for the much-maligned platform.
According to video game analyst NPD, Sony sold 491,800 PS3s in September, beating out Nintendo's Wii--which moved 462,800 units--and Microsoft's Xbox 360, which came in last at 352,600 units sold for the month.
For Sony, the news seemed to prove that many would-be PS3 buyers had been waiting for nearly three years to get one of the consoles at a price more in line with what Nintendo and Microsoft charge for their devices.
In August, Sony unveiled the $299 PS3 Slim, which got the platform under the $300 level for the first time. The Wii currently runs for $199, and the lowest-price Xbox goes for the same.
Based on the PS3 price cut, some analysts had been predicting that the console would finally come out on top when NPD released its September numbers. Indeed, Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter was proven right when he suggested that price cuts for all three consoles would most benefit Sony. He even said that he thought it is possible that the PS3 will outsell the Xbox for the rest of the year, which, if true, would be a major blow to Microsoft's video games group.
Sony would do well to temper any crowing. Its first one-month victory came after nearly three years, and clearly demonstrates that many buyers felt the console was too expensive previously. The PS3 was originally released with a top price of $599.
Still, the September results are big news for Sony and could be a sign that things are finally turning around for the beleaguered PS3. Given that Sony has always maintained that the next-generation console has a ten-year lifespan, we could eventually see the PS3 emerge as the next-gen victor, but only if the company keeps the console priced competitively and ensures that software offerings stay strong.
At the same time, the September numbers are also further proof that the Wii is no longer invulnerable. For most of the last three years, Nintendo's console has been the industry leader, dominating the offerings from Sony and Microsoft and forcing the two companies to argue that the Wii is actually in a different category than the PS3 and Xbox 360. Now, however, we're likely to see a realignment of the PS3's marketing, at least, relative to the Wii.
Video games across the board
Sony's first monthly win will certainly get most of the ink, but it's also noteworthy that the video games industry as a whole posted an impressive September on the heels of several lackluster months.
For the month, according to NPD, the industry posted sales of $1.28 billion, up 1 percent from $1.27 billion a year ago. That suggests that consumers are once again shelling out for games and consoles, especially now that the holiday season is approaching.
"The industry managed a modest increase over September 2008, and generated the second bestselling September on record after 2007 when Halo 3 released and sold over 3 million copies that month," wrote NPD analyst Anita Frazier in a note accompanying her monthly report. "On a unit sales basis, the industry was flat. The increase in revenues is driven by a rise in average retail prices in all categories with the exception of console hardware in which the average retail price decreased 8 percent from last September."
And while the Xbox came in third among consoles, Frazier reported that the Microsoft gaming platform did contribute "the most to industry unit and dollar sales as sales of the 360 hardware, software and accessories comprised 32 percent of the month's revenues."
But the PS3 price cut had the most visible impact. Frazier pointed out that the console sold more than twice as many PS3s in September as it did during the same month a year ago.