Here’s everything that’s built up over the weekend, so we aren’t still talking old news on Wednesday:
For one week, the Xbox 360 was actually bigger in Japan than Sony’s PS3, with the 360 outselling the PS3 as sales increased from the previous week by about 500%. It’s not Wii-level (and the low-selling PS3 isn’t that hard to catch), but it’s a start towards gaining a real foothold in Japan. On the other hand, PS3 sales in the US are up double so far this month after the console’s price dropped to $400.
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Zumobi, a company spun out of Microsoft Research, has announced that its new UI for mobile devices will be released December 14. Zumobi works by displaying up to 16 “tiles” in a grid of web services and content on a single screen, allowing users to choose quickly from the available sites. It’s a complicated but supposedly genius idea, one we’ll have to play around with to fully understand.
Apple finally admitted that porting its UI over to Windows is stupid, and has fixed a lot of the Mac problems in the Windows version of Safari. Windows can now be resized from all edges, not just a little thing in the corner, and ClearType font rendering can be used instead of Apple’s patented EyeStrain technology, among other fixes.
Microsoft has cut the price of the Premium Xbox 360 and the Core pack in Japan, knocking the price down to hopefully get at all competitive in that country. The Core 360 (presumably to be replaced by the Arcade, at the new price, any day now) will cost 27,800 yen, or $243, down from 29,800 yen, or $261, but still more than the Wii’s 25,000 yen/$219. The Premium is now 34,800 yen/$304, down from 39,795 yen/$348.
For the first half of 2007, Microsoft sold 122,565 units of the Xbox 360 in Japan. The PlayStation 3, which has gotten off to a slow start, still sold nearly five times as many with 503,554 units. Nintendo’s Wii meanwhile sold 1.78 million.
The price cut will certainly help the 360 compete, though it will not be enough to win. Microsoft isn’t going to win Japan this console generation, but if it wins worldwide, and handily, it could leave Sony so weak that the Japanese will buy the next Xbox.
Sony has changed, yet again, the pricing scheme for its PlayStation 3 console, creating a new edition that is the first competitively priced PS3. The new PS3 costs $400, equal to what the main Xbox 360 used to cost and halfway between the price of the 360 Premium and the 360 Elite. It has a 40-gigabyte hard drive, twice what the Premium has and 1/3 what the Elite had. It does not have backwards compatibility with PS2 games.
Meanwhile, Sony is keeping the current model, the 80-gigabyte one, charging $500 for it. That model is available, at that price right now.
On the other hand, the $400 PS3 is not available now, but it will be available November 2.
So, it’s great that Sony cut the price, but once again they’ve failed to consider the market before an announcement. The problems:
The PlayStation 2 is still very popular, with its games selling well and people still buying the console. This means many PlayStation fans have held off on PS3 purchases, waiting for a price drop. Now, the price drop is finally here, but the cheap console doesn’t play PS2 games. That means that many of the people who waited for the price drop are exactly the people who wanted the backwards compatibility. Want to bet at least some people hold off and wait a little longer?
November 2 isn’t far off, but it is 15 days away. Want to bet sales dip drastically for the rest of the month?
Why did Sony axe the backwards compatibility? They’re known to be nazis on squeezing the price of components as low as possible in order to save money and lower prices, and they probably saved a very small amount removing the backwards compatibility. The amount they saved is not proportional to the amount of people it was important to. I guarantee you (assuming BC cost $10 of the price of the console) that a $410 PS3 with BC would well outsell a $400 without it.
Sony’s developing a problem with too many units of its console. Every time they drop the price, they change the hard drive capacity and the bundle. It’s getting confusing. First, we had 20 (no wifi) and 60 gigs, then the 20 gig was discontinued, then the 60-gig was discounted (and got software BC) and we got the 80-gig (with software BC, now we’ve got no 60 gig, a cheaper 80 gig, and a newer 40 gig (with no BC, no wifi and no memory card reader).
Sony has said that consumer are confused by multiple editions of a console, yet it keeps messing with the types of PS3s, not just the price. Microsoft has changed pricing once, and added one new type, that’s it. Simple is better, but Sony has no idea.
Anyway, the $400 PS3, when it does arrive, should be a force and prove very popular. Microsoft should look into dropping the Xbox 360’s price another $25, to make the cheapest edition cheaper than the Wii and the most expensive edition only $25 more than the PS3 (and bearing triple the hard drive space). The PS3 is going to sell much better, though not necessarilly well enough, and Microsoft should have a response.
Red Octane, the makers of Guitar Hero 3, have announced the pricing for the Xbox 360 edition of the game, which hits stores October 28. Unlike Rock Band, its big competitor, the Guitar Hero 3 bundle (which includes the game and the guitar controller) will come with a wireless guitar, and not cost one cent more than the PS3 bundle. Both the 360 and PS3 editions, with wireless guitars, will cost $100, while the Wii and PS2 editions will cost $90.
So, if Red Octane can produce a wireless 360 controller at no extra cost, why can’t Harmonix for Rock Band? I’ll probably be buying the Rock Band bundle and the Guitar Hero 3 standalone game (total cost: $230) and get the wired Rock Band controller, along with the drums and microphone, or maybe get the Rock Band and Guitar Hero bundles (total cost: $270), which leaves me with a wired guitar (Rock Band), wireless guitar (Guitar Hero), drums and microphone. Or maybe I’ll just get the Rock Band bundle, plus the Rock Band wireless guitar (total cost: $250) and hock the wired guitar on eBay for $40-60, and wait on Guitar Hero.
See how all the bundling plans are making everything needlessly complicated?
MTV has announced the pricing for Rock Band, and unexpectedly it will be $30 cheaper than earlier reports. The Xbox 360 and PS3 bundles will cost $170, not two hundred, wonderful news for those eagerly anticipating the game (myself included). The bundles will hit store shelved November 23, and the Xbox 360 version will, sadly, be saddled with a wired guitar compared to the PS3’s wireless for the same price (a PS2 bundle will ship 12/10 for $10 less).
If you have a Guitar Hero-compatible guitar, supposedly you can use that with the game, so pick up just the game for $60. You can’t pick up standalone peripherals until January 31 of next year, so at this point your only option is to buy the bundle or use an older guitar, which is annoyingly stupid. The standalones all combine on the 360 for $250, meaning there is no point in even considering the wireless guitar for the 360 version, unless you want it as your second guitar.
Think about it, buying the drums, microphone, wireless guitar and game seperately will cost you $250, but buying the wired guitar bundle plus a wireless guitar costs $250, and you wind up with two guitars. Sounds better to me.
Microsoft did better than it had hoped, selling enough copies of Halo 3 in just the first day to beat Spider-man 3’s opening weekend with an astounding $170 million. Halo 3’s launch is being called the biggest launch in entertainment history, netting more money than any movie weekend or music release, though the higher cost of video games makes it likely that they moved fewer units than some other record holders.
Still, Microsoft pushed for the biggest opening ever, and they pulled it off. Unless there’s a Halo 4 on the way, expect it to be a long time before we see a phenomenon like this. Hopefully the Xbox division can start making a profit now.
There’s also some concern over the Halo 3 Limited Edition disks coming scratched, as I mentioned last week. If you find a scratched disk, Microsoft has set up a replacement program, but shipping roundtrip takes two weeks (an interminable amount of time if you want to finish the damn fight). I recommend opening up your copy at the register the second you purchase it, and exchanging it in-store if there’s a problem. You take it home, you’re asking for problems (though lets not forget, this defect is still Microsoft’s fault).
Sony, meanwhile, is talking smack (or rather, sitting in the corner and whispering a little), saying that “We’ve never been dependent on any one game”. Yeah, that’s right, the PS3 right now depends on a mere two really good games, neither of which is all that classic, while the 360 has a ton of great games. And lots not forget the Wii, which is still missing a single major game release since it was launched.
The latest numbers from the NPD Group are out, and sales of video game consoles are looking good for Microsoft. Thanks to the Xbox 360’s price cut, the 360 actually outsold the ol’ PlayStation 2, selling 276,000 consoles in August (a 106,000 unit increase). Meanwhile, Sony’s post-price cut surge is firmly over, with the PlayStation 3 selling just 130,000 consoles, a drop of 29,000 from the month before.
One wonders how many months Microsoft can sell double what Sony does before people stop caring about the PS3 altogether. Of course, if Halo 3 pushes a few hundred thousand Xbox 360s, we could be looking at a very shook-up market in two months.
NPD’s stats on August games sales puts the 360 version of Madden as the top seller (896,000 copies), followed by the PS2 version, followed by Bioshock on the 360 (490,000), followed by Madded on the PS3 (336,000). No other PS3 game made the top 20.
The latest numbers from the NPD Group are out, and Nintendo’s Wii has finally overtaken the Xbox 360 in total sales, with the Wii having sold 9 million consoles, compared to Microsoft’s 8.9 million. Sony’s PlayStation 3 lags behind, with 3.7 million units. Microsoft’s one year head start evaporated after 10 months, but if you look at the battle as being a Microsoft vs. Sony one, then maybe those numbers aren’t so bad.
Rock Band is the spiritual successor to Guitar Hero, developed by the same people and using the same rhythm-based gameplay on unique, musicalinstrument-shaped controllers. The Xbox 360’s wireless technology is proprietary, and Microsoft has been loath to allow other companies to use it, but the finally folded and allowed Harmonix to license it, at a cost.
As a result, the standalone wireless guitar for Rock Band on the 360 will cost twenty dollars more than the same peripheral on the PS3 ($80 vs $60). What’s worse, the full game experience can only be had by buying the full bundle, containing a guitar, drum set and microphone, which costs $200, but the PS3 version will have a wireless guitar, while identically priced 360 version will not. There will be no bundle with a wireless guitar for the 360.
By itself, the game costs $60, the wired guitar $60, the drums $80 and the microphone $30. The entire standalone set will set you back $230, and adding a wireless guitar will make it $250. Buying the game and a wireless guitar, but none of the other peripherals, would be $140. As you can see, there is no financially sensible way to get Rock Band with a wireless controller and all the other peripherals, which is quite a shame.
What’s the point of all this? One of the hottest games of the year is coming out, and because of licensing issues, gamers on the Xbox 360 will be getting an inferior version compared to PS3 owners. The console war is all about differentiation, exclusives, and hit games, and on such a high profile game, to give 360 gamers an inferior version is a quick way to lose a few fans to the competition. Anyone who has $200 to blow on a single game can afford to go PS3 instead of 360, and that’s not the direction Microsoft should be pushing them.
Microsoft needs to bite the bullet and drop the licensing fee on the bundle, at least for the first few months. Take your $20 cut on the standalone guitar and leave the bigger bundle alone for now, since you are ruining your unit pricing versus the competition. There’s no reason Sony should get to win this battle, not when the fix is so easy.
And Harmonix: Stop being an idiot about this. If you are going to charge $20 more for a wireless standalone guitar, charge $20 more for a wireless bundle. Making gamers buy all the peripherals for $250, when it should be $220, just makes you look like morons who can’t do the math. Suck it and add an SKU.
The latest console sales figures from the NPD are out, and Sony’s Playstation 3 improved a very nice amount but failed to catch the Xbox 360. In July, Sony sold 159,000 PS3s, 60,000 higher than the month before, but the 360 sold 170,000, down from 198,000. All this is from before the 360’s price cut, so August’s numbers are going to be doubly important.
Of course, Nintendo’s unstoppable Wii sold 425,00 units, up from 381k (and 338k in May and 360k in April and 259k in March). Total sales figures for both consoles have Nintendo 2.5 million away from catching the 360 and well ahead of the 360’s sales pace, while the PS3 is far below the pace the 360 sold last year. At this rate, Nintendo might catch Microsoft at the end of the year, unless the price cut and Halo 3 and the holiday season start to shake things up.
Gerson Lehrman Group is wondering if the timing of the Xbox 360 price cut was too early, or if the cut was even necessary. They reason that a cut is needed if your product has something to gain, but with Sony’s still-too-expensive console, Nintendo’s regardless of the industry sales, Halo 3 and the 360 Elite, Microsoft didn’t gain much at all.
I’d have to disagree. Sony’s had a bad year, possibly a terrible year. Sony’s price cut is probably the only reason they’re even still in this console war, and you don’t let a competitor improve without a response. The PS3 is improving, no doubt, and it would have been stupid to do nothing. Microsoft is doing what it needs to to keeps Sony down, and to keep its next-gen lead, and that’s why the price cut had to happen.
Sony made a pretty cool announcement that should excite European PS3 owners, that the PS3 will become a Digital Video Recorder sometime early next year. Basically, PS3 owners will be able to pick up a DVB-T TV tuner for dual HD recording/viewing, and they’ll be able to transfer recordings to a PSP (as well as schedule recordings from the PSP).
Sony’s bringing a really cool feature for PS3 owners, one Microsoft expects you to get through your PC. In Microsoft’s strategy, the Xbox 360 is a vital piece in your digital ecosystem, while in Sony’s, the PS3 is apparently supposed to be the central piece (and for $600, I guess it had better be). I can’t say I’m not jealous of this, especially since I haven’t been able to get Media Center to work right in over a year, but as long as it’s Europe-only, tied to a $600 piece of hardware (plus an indeterminately-priced add-on), I’ll live without it.
The difference is likely due to the tight hold Microsoft has over wireless on the 360. No company has been allowed to produce wireless 360 peripherals, and if Rock Band gets to, it looks like we’ll be paying a $20 tax.
Does anyone know how Gamefly handles games like this? Will I be able to rent Rock Band, peripherals and all?
I’ve talked about the Sony XL1 200-disk DVD Changer, the only mass DVD storage device that allows streaming of all the DVDs to Windows Media Center Extenders PCs through the Media Center interface. There have been some good deals before, but if you really want the thing now, Amazon’s price on it has come down to a mere 200 dollars. That’s one dollar per disk!
Seriously, this thing is some high-end equipment, the sort of thing that would normally be found in only the most expensive home theater. I’d love to have one, and at this price, it’s pretty damn affordable. Check it out.
Sony’s had a mighty bit of good PR lately for its PlayStation 3, as PS Vault ran the PS3 through an awfully hazardous stress test, and the console came out with nary a scratch. They ran it for 108 hours under normal conditions, 108 hours in a freezer van (as low as zero degrees) and 108 hours in a sauna (100-120 degrees), and the damn thing didn’t break or falter except in the slightest. I’m not sure if anyone’s (older) Xbox 360 has been subjected to the same conditions, or if it could survive.
The official PlayStation blog is enjoying the good attention, saying, “A lot of noise has been made recently about the reliability issues of one of our competitor’s systems”. It’s a shame that after an incredible first year showing and building a nice lead, Microsoft is getting killed by these reliability problems. It’s a shame that they didn’t catch these problems before the console was released, even more of a shame that they made mistake after mistake trying to fix it in the last 21 months.
Microsoft has been dragging their feet on the 65 nm update to the 360’s core processors, when the update could have saved them a billion dollars in warranty charges and terrible PR. If only they had put their priorities in the right place, they wouldn’t be in this situation. I’d hate to see the 360 give up its lead to the PS3 because of this screw-up, but they made the mistakes, now they have to live with the consequences.
Amazon.com is showing a huge jump in sales of the Xbox 360, moving 600% more Premium consoles today than yesterday thanks to the price break. The 360 jumped from #28 in its category, Video Games, to #4, while Xbox 360 Elite sales jumped 477% to #9 from #52. The Core system had a decent jump, too, up 144% to #103 from 252. Still, the 360 is selling only as high as fourth, while the limited $499 PS3 is third and the Wii is #2.
One good thing: Speaking to the fact that the 360 has the biggest install base and the biggest sales of games per console (what Microsoft calls its “attach rate” of over 6), the number one seller is a 360 exclusive game, Forza Motorsport 2. Number six is a 360 exclusive, too, the pre-order of Halo 3 beating out every single Wii or PS3 game. In fact, Madden 08 on the 360 is #11, the first PS3 game is Madden on that system at #14, and the first Wii game* is Mario Strikers Charged a #19.
* - Wii Play is #12, but it is really a Wii remote with a $10 game.
Microsoft confirmed the rumors and cut the price of the Xbox 360 today, dropping the price of the main system by $50 to $350. You can get the Premium at a price $100 more than the Nintendo Wii and $150-250 less than Sony’s PS3, while the Core drops twenty bucks to $279 (within thirty of the Wii) and the Elite drops thirty to $450, $50-150 less than the PS3. The Halo 3 Xbox 360, which has the Premium’s 20-gig hard drive, the Elite’s HDMI port and a Halo color scheme is $400.
The price drop moves the 360 Core closer to the Wii, improving comparisons, but not enough that the difference is a wash, while it keeps Microsoft far ahead of Sony ($250, if the stock isn’t replenished). You can buy an Elite and the HD-DVD drive for just $30 more than the PS3, or the 360 Premium and the Wii for the same prize as Sony’s console-with-no-games.
(via Todd Bishop)
Leaks are coming at the rate of several a day that an Xbox 360 price drop is imminent, sometime in the next ten days. A Circuit City ad shows that you should be able to get an Xbox 360 Premium, the most common version of the system, for $350, fifty bucks less than now, starting August 12. A Core system, without a hard drive, will go for $280, a drop of $20, and the big hard drive’d Elite will drop thirty to $450. The Premium comes with a free copy of Rockstar’s Table Tennis (which rocks).
Other reports have Wal-Mart selling the Premium at $350 the week of August 10, a Hollywood Reporter article that says there will be a $50 cut in August, and a Toys R Us ad that shows a $350 Xbox 360 the week of August 13. Also, a strange leak shows Best Buy stopping to stock the 360 Core, which is strange given the new low price (though it could indicate the model is being discontinued once stock runs out).
Gamestop sent out a letter to stores indicating they would be receiving important signs from Microsoft next week on August 8, and not to display the signs early if they get them. Sounds like an exciting week ahead, and hopefully a nice boost for Microsoft. If word that the Premium is getting an HDMI port soon is true, it could be nice to have my 360 break on me in a month or two.
Will the price cut be enough? Certainly, if Sony lets $500 PS3 stock run out as all indications are saying, a $280 with no drive and a $450 with a 120-gig drive looks like a bargain compared with a $600 with an 80-gig drive (unless you must have Blu-Ray, which no one does). Now, if Sony replenishes the $500 model with the 80-gigger once the 60 runs out, it’s in better shape, but without a decent games library, Microsoft still has a good position.
This ain’t over by a longshot. This could be a real close and long console war. That, or Sony never reaches high enough levels, and the reign of PlayStation is over.