Christmas cheer for Nintendo

14 Dec 2006

Nintendo looks set to be the big winner between the three major games console makers competing head-to-head over the Christmas buying season, an industry watcher has predicted.

Carl Gressum, an analyst with Ovum in the UK, said that Nintendo’s Wii device will “steal the show” this Christmas, ahead of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PS3.

According to research data from Ovum, the Xbox 360 had sales to date of six million units by the end of the third quarter. By comparison, Wii shipments are forecast to top four million in December alone. “Microsoft might be able to rival or even beat Nintendo in terms of Q4 shipments but these numbers will include October and November sales,” Gressum pointed out.

Nintendo’s success is all the more remarkable as the company had been widely assumed to be out of the running in the next-generation console market last year. “Nintendo focused instead on making fun games with broad appeal at an affordable price. It was a brave move and seems to have paid off,” Gressum said.

Retailers in Ireland are reporting very high demand for the Wii, with only those who have pre-ordered the device likely to get it in time for 25 December. A web rumour that Currys in the Liffey Valley centre in Dublin had an unlimited supply of the Wii prompted some people to start queuing from 6am one morning earlier this month.

There is some consolation — no pun intended — for Microsoft, as Ovum forecast that this Christmas will be part of the best quarter yet for the Xbox 360. Worldwide shipments are set to match or beat four million units. The addition of games titles, such as Gears of War, should boost Xbox 360 sales in the US and Europe, more than the newly added video download services for the device, Ovum said.

Sony meanwhile is bracing itself for lower than expected shipments of its PlayStation 3, which was released just in time for Christmas. Production delays mean that total 2006 shipments will be just shy of two million. On the technology side, Gressum noted that Sony made two brave bets with the console, by the addition of a Blu-ray high-definition DVD disc drive and the Cell processor, both of which are new and untested technologies. “Over time these technology choices might be what will bring Sony back into the game. However, for now, one has to question whether Sony might have been better off using more mature and established technologies,” Gressum commented.

By Gordon Smith