Sony’s PS3 enjoys late jump in sales

A hefty price cut and a new model PlayStation3 appeared to have paid off for Sony, as the company revealed that it had sold 3.8m of the games consoles worldwide in the final five weeks of 2009. This is a 76 per cent increase on last year and the best holiday sales the PS3 has had.

The company said that its PlayStation Network, the online gaming service that can be accessed from the PS3, PlayStation Portable or by personal computer, now has 38m registered accounts.

The announcement comes a day after rival Nintendo said that it had sold more than 3m Wii consoles in the US in December, a 40 per cent increase on the previous year. The sales figures allayed fears that games console companies were set for a lacklustre Christmas as the console market matures.

Sony’s figures echoed research from the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association, the UK industry body, which found that the PS3 console was the star performer of 2009, increasing unit sales in the UK by 2 per cent.

Launched in November 2006, the PS3 had been slow to build sales, in part because it was priced much higher than its rivals. However, last August, Sony unveiled a new, slimmer version of the games machine, priced 25 per cent lower than the original. The price is below the crucial $300 level in the US (€300 in Europe and £249 in the UK) to make it more affordable for a mass market.

“On the back of the PS2 Sony has built up huge brand equity and there are a lot of people out there saying they would love a PS3 but it’s been just too expensive,” said Ed Barton, analyst at Screen Digest. “Now we are hitting the threshold of the mass market.”

The PS3 is now closer to the $199 price of an entry-level Microsoft Xbox 360 and the $199 Nintendo Wii.

Nevertheless, the PS3 has further to go to catch up with sales of its rivals.

The Wii had sold more than 56m units by last September, while the Xbox 360 had sold 34m units by October. The PS3 had sales of 27m to the end of September.

Sony has also added a number of online features to the console, including a video downloading service and links to internet television platforms such as the BBC’s iPlayer, in order to increase the appeal of the device.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, Sony repeated plans to upgrade the PS3 consoles so that 3D games and films could be played.

It also plans to introduce a new motion controller for the console, a move aimed at countering the threat from Microsoft, which is this year planning to put huge resources behind the launch of its Natal system, which lets gamers control a console through gestures and voice commands alone.

“Of all the console makers, Sony appears to have the best momentum now, but the biggest threat might be the launch of Microsoft’s Natal,” Mr Barton said.

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