CNNMoney.com posted an interesting article detailing sales figures in the game console space for November.
This has already been predicted elsewhere on the web, but Sony came nowhere close to its shipping estimate of 400,000 consoles for the US launch of the PS3, selling only 195,000 in its first 13 days on the shelves. It would be interesting to see how many of those were sold in the first DAY, given that the console has been a no-show on store shelves around the country ever since, but the figures weren't broken out that way.
Nintendo managed to sell 476,000 consoles, mostly because it wasn't suffering from the supply issues faced by Sony (damn you, blue-light diodes!!!). XBOX 360 sold 511,000 units over the period.
Particularly notable is the popularity of portable game systems. Nintendo swept the field, selling 920,000 of the Nintendo DS, and 639,000 of the Game Boy Advance. Sony's also got in on the portable gaming action, selling 639,000 units of its PSP device.
Even more interesting, however, were the strong sales of the Playstation 2, the market leading console of the last generation with far and away more games than anyone else. Sony managed to sell 663,000 of the devices, which is more than XBOX 360. This shows that Sony's revenue stream isn't solely dependent on sales of the PS3, and that even if they lose the next generation console war (which I think they will), they will continue to earn decent gaming revenue from the PS2, which may give them some room to improve things on the PS3 (or PS4) front.
The article closed by theorizing that people may be favoring portable game consoles when faced with an inability to find a Nintendo Wii or PS3. That, however, doesn't explain the strong sales of the PS2.
Part of the reason may be that HD TVs still aren't in the majority. Older graphics capability may be more than enough for older TVs, and as I've noticed, the clarity of down-converted games designed for HD TVs can make reading things like text very difficult.
Another reason, at least in the case of the PS2, is that when you go into a store that sells game consoles you see acres of PS2 games and accessories. That shouldn't be too surprising, as the PS2 managed to sell more than 100 million units over its lifespan. It has such a large installed base that people are STILL making new games for it. "Bully," the controversial new title from RockStar Games, was released a few months ago exclusively for the PS2.
A final reason, at least one that jumped out at me, was the fact that portable game machines - and the PS2 - are MUCH cheaper than an XBOX 360 or a PS3 (assuming you can find a PS3), a status that extends to the price of games. You can get a new PS2 console or a Nintendo DS at Best Buy(a large American electronics retailer) for $129.00.
Why would American consumers be price sensitive? Buzz-killing economists point towards a slump in 2007, driven by sinking housing prices (which makes owners feel a bit poorer) or the risk of price inflation due to a sinking dollar (imports become more expensive). Whatever the case, battening the hatches in preparation for a slowing economy combined with the fact that HD TVs still aren't in the majority and the ecosystem benefits of the PS2 could help to explain things.
If consumers are getting price sensitive, that should be good news Nintendo Wii, which at $250 has the lowest price of any next generation console, and bad news for Sony, which has very little room to lower price due to the high production costs of its console. It also could be decent news for the XBOX 360. At $300 for a core system and $400 for the premium version, they come out at the middle of the price range. Further, Microsoft now makes a slim profit from sale of each XBOX given that they have used their year lead time to lower XBOX 360 production costs. This means that, if price proves a large discriminator in the battle for next generation supremacy, they do have room to lower prices.
Of course, this is all speculation, and we'll see what happens once Sony starts to get its PS3 act together. I'm sure they're happy about PS2 sales, though. They can't bank on it for the long term, but it does give them some breathing room.