This year’s Black Friday pleasantly surprised retailers when sales grew far more than expected. The biggest areas of growth were electronics and video games. One of the biggest winners this year appears to have been Microsoft. No doubt propelled by the release of several highly anticipated games, including The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, and a number of new Kinect titles, the company reports that it sold nearly 1 million units of the Xbox 360 console and nearly 800,000 of the Kinect sensor in the week leading up to Black Friday. While some of the Kinect units were bundled with the Xbox consoles many were not, and the sales figures are nevertheless impressive.
The current generation of the so-called “console wars” between the Xbox, Nintendo’s Wii, and Sony’s Playstation 3 has been dominated by Microsoft almost from the beginning. The Xbox 360 was the first of the consoles to be released - hitting stores nearly a year ahead of the competition. While the Wii’s innovative design helped it gain popularity among casual gamers, it has never managed to dislodge Microsoft from its dominant position in the U.S. (the Wii maintains highest market share globally, however). Meanwhile Playstation, which boasted the most powerful technical specs of the three, also carried a price tag that many found exorbitant, especially in light of the Xbox and Wii’s much lower cost.
The Kinect sensor tracks the movement of players as they play, allowing them to game without a controller. It is compatible both with the original Xbox 360 and the redesigned Xbox 360 Slim, which released last summer. It continues a trend begun with the Nintendo Wii of using player movement to control gameplay. Shortly after the release of Kinect, Sony unveiled the Playstation Move controller, which mimics the function of the Wii remote in many respects.
While neither Sony nor Nintendo have posted their Black Friday week console sales figures, USA Today reports that Nintendo sold over 500,000 units of their Nintendo 3DS portable gaming system, as well as 535,000 of the long awaited Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the latest installment in their flagship Legend of Zelda game series.
All in all, the game console market remains dominated by Microsoft, which boasts a 44% share of the market. October was the eighth consecutive month in which the Xbox had a market share above 40%. The console has had the top spot in the market for a total of eleven consecutive months. With more game releases and a re-design of the console’s Xbox Live dashboard still to come, there is every reason to believe that trend will continue.