Sony PS2 Sales Slump, GameCube Surges

The videogame industry received a dose of good news on Wednesday when Nintendo Co. Ltd. said holiday sales of its GameCube rose over 70 percent from a year ago, while Sony Corp’s PS2 sales did notfall as sharply as expected.

A 27 percent rise in software sales for Sony’s PlayStation 2 (PS2) console in November and December from a year earlier confirmed that year-end sales were strong, but analysts said the comeback by Nintendo was big news for the industry.

“Nintendo has managed to make a bit of a comeback, which is quite important for them. It was make or break for them this Christmas season and they have pulled it off more or less,” said KBC Securities analyst Hiroshi Kamide.

A Nintendo spokesman said it would easily achieve a global sales target of six million GameCubes for the full business year, easing some market concerns about the feasibility of that goal after it sold only 890,000 in the six months to September 30.

The Kyoto-based company said holiday sales — roughly defined as the period from the end of November to early January — rose over 70 percent from a year earlier, without specifying how many units it sold.

Nintendo got a boost from cutting GameCube prices in Japan, Europe and North America in September and October, ahead of a holiday sales push.

Sony said in a news release that global PS2 sales fell about eight percent in November and December, but analysts said a single digit decline is a good showing at this point in the console’s business cycle.

Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE), the company’s game unit, said PS2 sales totaled 7.83 million units in November and December, down from the previous year’s 8.5 million units. Software sales rose to a record 66 million units. PS2 has been a runaway success for Sony since it was launched in Japan almost four years ago, grabbing almost two-thirds of the game console market in competition with Microsoft Corp’s Xbox machine and Nintendo Co. Ltd.’s GameCube.

PlayStation head Ken Kutaragi told reporters last week that the entire industry enjoyed a strong holiday season.

Microsoft’s Chief Xbox officer Robbie Bach told Reuters in an interview earlier this month that the game machine’s holiday sales were “solid,” without specifying exact numbers.

Still, KBC Securities’ Kamide cautioned about getting too excited.

“The trend to November was so poor that people really pushed down expectations so low and were a bit too pessimistic. The actual result was good, but on the whole it was not as fantastic as people think,” he said.

Sony said PS2 sales in North America fell 27 percent to 2.94 million units in November and December from four million units a year earlier.

It said sales grew 18 percent to 1.11 million units in Japan, where sales were boosted by a decision to cut PS2 prices by roughly 20 percent to 19,800 yen.

In Europe, PS2 sales rose five percent to 3.56 million units.

Prior to the announcement, shares of Sony closed up 3.82 percent at 4,080 yen after investment bank Goldman Sachs upgraded the shares, due in part to strong Christmas sales.

Nintendo shares closed up 0.1 percent at 9,900 yen, while the benchmark Nikkei average rose 0.12 percent.

Source: Reuters