The NPD Group released sales figures for the month of September, and there are a number of surprises.
First, the PlayStation 3 has outsold the Xbox 360 for the first time in 32 months. While this isn’t necessarily a major turning point, it is still a milestone for Sony’s once beleaguered system. Released later than its competition and at a significantly higher price, the PS3 long struggled to make headway against the Xbox 360 in North America. That extra year allowed Microsoft to establish an early lead and to later widen that gap through studio acquisitions, exclusivity agreements and some very smart targeting of specific developers and publishers.
High-profile, big name releases like BioShock, Mass Effect and The Orange Box all hit the Xbox 360 first. These were massive, massive titles that could truly justify the “Only on Xbox 360″ stamp, and if they were to appear on PS3, it was anywhere from two months to a year later. Microsoft also successfully lured away the single biggest former third-party PlayStation-exclusive franchise: Final Fantasy.
Unfortunately, there was little Sony could do to stop the bleeding. It had to focus on making the PS3 profitable. This meant lowering production costs and resisting the calls for significant price cuts. The past year or two, we’ve seen the strategy starting to work, with the system starting to turn around. That said, this generation has been tough for the PS3, so it’s nice to see the September sales bump.