Has Xbox 360 Already Won the War?

With Microsoft executives becoming ever more eager to tout the company's sales numbers of its Xbox 360 in public, and the dramatic success of games like Gears of War, has Redmond given itself such a head start that it will be near-impossible for Sony to catch up?

Twice in the past week, Microsoft officials have mentioned the magic 10 million number. It has significance, as in each of the previous video game generations, the first to that level ended up being the best selling console overall.

At a NASDAQ event in London, chief financial officer Chris Liddell reiterated Microsoft's forecast for 10 million consoles by the end of the Christmas season. This number has not only been mentioned by Liddell, but repeatedly by Gates, Ballmer and Xbox head Peter Moore as well.

Many analysts are cautioning that the company may be setting itself up for embarrassment and retaliation from shareholders if it fails to meet this goal. However, in an interview with Bloomberg, Moore upped the ante even more.

Asked by the news service whether the company was likely to beat that outlook, Moore agreed, saying the Thanksgiving weekend was a stellar one for Microsoft and Xbox.

Numbers obtained by BetaNews seem to back up Moore's claim. Sources say the company sold as many as 100,000 consoles per day in the period surrounding Thanksgiving weekend. Numbers were on the high end of expectations, according to the data.

Additionally, Microsoft was helped out by weaker than expected sales of both the Wii and PS3 during the same period, indicating that shoppers looking for a next-gen console may have been opting for Microsoft's entrant over others due to availability.

While the most recent data shows six million Xbox 360 consoles sold as of September 30, internal data indicates Microsoft may have sold more than eight million units as of the end of November.

Reaching the 10 million goal is just now a matter of sales: about a week ago the company shipped its ten millionth console. And from the looks of things, hitting the mark may not be that difficult.

Industry watchers are beginning to believe, too. "Microsoft's lead seems unbeatable now, fueled by a one year head start, the raging success of Gears of War as 2006's killer app, and most recently, a blitzkrieg of promotion for Halo 3, scheduled for 2007," GigaOM's Wagner James Au said.

Microsoft's Moore said the success of the Xbox 360 has much to do with its value proposition for the consumer. "Certainly the consumer is recognizing the fact that we have a great price point as well as 160 games available and that flies in the face of our competition," he told Bloomberg.

"It's not hard to be confident when you're the only show in town. Sure, PS3 and Wii have been released, but try to buy one. Short supplies mean sunny sales for Microsoft," remarked Microsoft Watch editor Joe Wilcox. "Also, Xbox 360 is HD ready at a time when HD TVs are hot items. Consumers can wait around for PS3 or Wii and likely not get one--or they could buy a Xbox 360 for their brand new HD plasma or LCD TV. Microsoft is right to boast about sales."

As the saying goes, the ball is now very much in Sony's court.

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