While video game pundits will endlessly debate which of the three major video game hardware makers—Microsoft, Nintendo, or Sony—"won" the recent E3 press conferences battle, there can be no doubt which product came out ahead in the most recent month. By winning the month of May, Microsoft's Xbox 360 has now outsold the Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation for the 11th month in a row. That's a pretty impressive achievement given the age of the console, which is a year older than its competitors.
"Now in the seventh year of its lifecycle, Xbox 360 is on pace to have the biggest year in its history, a feat never achieved by any console in history," a report by the market researchers at NPD reads. (There may be a slight math problem there, by the way: The Xbox 360 launched in November 2005, so by my own math, the console is actually in the 6th year of its lifecycle, not the 7th. Still, it's one year younger than the Wii and PS3, both of which launched in 2006.)
Microsoft sold 270,000 Xbox 360 consoles in the US in May, a 39 percent increase over the same month in the previous year. Nintendo came in second, selling 236,000 Wii consoles and the PS3 accounted for 177,000 units, in third place among dedicated home consoles. Sony once threatened to surge ahead of the Xbox 360 during this console generation, but given the past year, that now seems unlikely. Nintendo, of course, will win this generation by a comfortable margin, but a number two finish for the Xbox 360 can only be seen as a huge victory for Microsoft.
That said, analysts expect hardware sales to drop steadily throughout the year unless console makers lower prices, and Microsoft is rumored to be planning an Xbox 360 price drop sometime this year. Also problematic: Video game software sales in May were weak overall, mostly because of a continued drop-off of interest in the Wii. Software sales fell 21 percent in the month to $400 million, with the bigger game publishers paring back on the number of new titles released.The top five games sold in May were L.A. Noire (Xbox 360, PS3), Brink (Xbox 360, PS3, PC), Lego Pirates of the Caribbean (virtually all platforms), Portal 2 ((Xbox 360, PS3, PC), and Mortal Kombat 2011 (Xbox 360, PS3).