Japan: PS3 catches up to Wii, Xbox 360 on life support

Wii's lead allegedly shrinks dramatically

In Japan, the Wii's lead over the PS3 shrank from six-to-one in May to just one-point-seven-to-one in June, according to Japanese magazine publisher Enterbrain. According to the publisher, Nintendo sold 235,990 Wii in a five week period ending June 29, versus PS3 sales of 139,494 and a dismal 10,964 for the Xbox 360.

If Reuters Japan's translation is accurate, I think Enterbrain's being a tad shortsighted when it claims that "[the Wii's] lead is fading" based on 30 days of numbers. The Wii's been in the lead for seven consecutive months, and it held onto that lead despite the earth-and-heavens-moving release of Konami's Metal Gear Solid 4, which is really the only reason the PS3 has suddenly (and, I believe, only temporarily) managed to almost catch up.

Why so upbeat about the Wii? Metal Gear Solid 4 was released on June 12 worldwide. It managed to hold the top sales spot for only two weeks before Super Smash Bros. Brawl (a 22-week-old game) and Wii Fit (a 31-week-old-game) managed to knock it from its perch. MGS4 has only sold just shy of 600,000 copies so far in Japan. This week, the number-two-selling Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World outsold the eighth-placing three-week-old MGS4 by over 135,000 copies.

"Fading" implies "withering, wilting, drooping, dimming, growing faint." Much as I love my PS3 and think the boost is absolutely great news for Sony, it's just dumb to call this the start of a trend. Look at the numbers any way you like, there's about one chance in a million the Wii's lead is "fading."

On a side note: I feel pretty badly for the Xbox 360 overseas, because it's a fantastic system with some terrific exclusives (from my West-blinkered perspective, anyway) and a fantastic software attach rate in the U.S. (something like 5-to-1). Why's it doing so badly in Japan? Is it a sense in Japan that Microsoft doesn't "get" Japanese gamers? The fact that the system's launch lineup was shooter, racing, and sports heavy? The lack of dating sims and RPGs and fighting games? The failure of HD-DVD to become the de facto optical format? Was it because 212 Xbox games were backward-compatible at the 360's U.S. launch, versus a paltry 12 in Japan? Did the red-ring-of-death scare that affected some 33% of earlier-gen Xbox 360s scare off Japanese consumers? Is it as controversial Ninja Gaiden 2 director Tomonobu Itagaki suggests, that in fact "economy policies" are somehow behind the 360's extremely poor Japanese showing?

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Matt Peckham

PC World (US online)
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