Analyst sees 'slowing' Xbox sales, Sony warns of PS3 Slim shortages

Investment bank Caris lowers quarterly estimate by $500 million on 360 doubts; SCEA CEO Jack Tretton says his company is on track to meet 13-million-unit annual sales goal.

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As the summer of 2009 cooled, the console wars heated up. During the last week of August, Sony began selling its $300 PlayStation 3 Slim just days before Microsoft lopped $100 off the price of the then-$400 Xbox 360 Elite. This week, Microsoft sweetened the deal by offering a $50 rebate for the Elite, making it as cheap as Nintendo's $250 Wii (for the time being) and is rumored to be readying a Lego Batman/Pure holiday bundle.

Microsoft is pulling out all the stops to sell the Xbox 360 Elite.
Microsoft is pulling out all the stops to sell the Xbox 360 Elite.

Unfortunately, Microsoft's moves aren't impressing the analysts at investment bank Caris & Co. In a Briefing.com report (ironically) syndicated on MSN Money, Caris is lowering its revenue projections for Microsoft's first fiscal quarter, which ends on September 30, from $12.8 billion to $12.3 billion.

The reason? According to the bank, "Caris believes Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices segment is likely to deliver weaker growth than the firm previously projected as slowing Xbox sales are likely to have a negative impact on results. While this appears to be mostly attributable to slowing end market demand, it also seems recent aggressive moves by Sony could lead to some modest market share loss for Microsoft."

The $300 PS3 Slim may carve out a chunk of the 360's market share.
The $300 PS3 Slim may carve out a chunk of the 360's market share.

Virtually simultaneously, Reuters published an interview with Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Jack Tretton in which he boasted of the third-place PS3's resurgence. After reiterating that PS3 sales tripled at top US and Canadian retailers after the Slim went on sale in late August, the executive said Sony was on track to sell 13 million PS3 units during the fiscal year ending March 31, 2010.

"In a very difficult economy, I couldn't be more optimistic about our fortunes for the rest of the year and for the future," beamed Tretton, before issuing a warning of sorts. "If things continue at this pace, it is conceivable that there will be product shortages."

There have already been indications that PS3 Slim stock is drying up. During the system's first weeks on the market, San Francisco Bay Area GameStop employees told GameSpot that Sony was being tightfisted with inventory, sending very limited amounts out each week. However, Best Buy locations spoke of ample supplies of the console.

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