With the release of NPD Funworld's 2006 numbers today, one big question was answered. Namely, the figures revealed which of the three formerly next-generation consoles sold the most at launch.
To those following the industry, the winner should come as no surprise. From its release on November 19 until December 31, more than 1.1 million "new-gen" Wiis were sold in the US. That was nearly double the approximately 687,300 PlayStation 3s sold following its November 17 launch until the end of the year. By comparison, the just over 607,000 Xbox 360s were sold in 2005 following its November 22 launch.
During December 2006, the 360 sold more than 1.1 million units, no doubt benefiting from scant supplies of the PS3 and the popularity of Gears of War. As of the end of 2006, Microsoft's console had sold just over 4.5 million units in the US and more than 10.4 million worldwide.
But before the Nintendo faithful begin writing epitaphs for Sony and Microsoft, NPD senior marketing manager David Riley said the only thing holding back the 360 and PS3 was production capacity. "Comparing the three consoles is like apples and oranges," he told GameSpot. "It was all about availability. Microsoft and Sony were moving them as fast as they could put them out. [But] Nintendo was on the ball."
Riley also thought the PS3's high price--$499 for the 20GB model, $599 for the 60GB--wasn't as large a factor as many have made it out to be. "I think price plays a role there, but remember during the holiday season people have deep pockets," he said. "Kids know what they want, and if they tell mom to go buy a PS3 and she comes home with a Wii, they won't be happy."
Fundamentally, though, Riley thinks that there are no losers in the next-gen console war--only winners. "I know plenty of gamers who own multiple platforms. That's why I despise the term console wars," he said. "I have all three, and I buy the software I want for each one."
[UPDATE] Within an hour of the NPD numbers' release, the spin doctors were out in force. Dave Karraker, Sony Computer Entertainment America's director of corporate communications, said that his company did indeed ship 1 million PS3s in North America in 2006. "NPD doesn't account for Canada...[and] doesn't cover all of our USA retailers," he told GameSpot. "We sold-in more than 150,000 systems the last week of December, so there were many units in transit or at retailer's backrooms waiting to be put out [by year's end]."
For its part, Microsoft claimed outright victory over the holidays. "The Xbox 360 garnered a 51 percent market share in the United States for December 2006...outselling the PlayStation 3 and Wii combined in December and outselling all next-generation consoles in November and December," the company said in a statement.
Analysts were also skeptical, with some believing that the Wii sold more than NPD reported. "I don't understand how US Wii sell-through could be 1.1 million cumulatively, with Nintendo saying that they shipped half of their 4 million here and zero inventory on retail shelves at year end," said Wedbush Morgan Securities' Michael Pachter. "Where are the other 900,000 units? I assume 200,000 are in transit, but this number makes no sense to me at all."