Sony: One Million PS3s Shipped - Not Yet Sold - in Japan

This afternoon, Sony confirmed to BetaNews that the company has shipped its one millionth PlayStation 3 console to Japanese retailers. The statement from the Japanese division of the company (SCEI) is much more straightforward than a similar one made last week by the American division (SCEA), though both are trying to make up for what some analysts perceive as a massive sales gap for PS3s on both continents.

This morning's statement from SCEI is careful to use the term "shipments" to refer to units that have left the factory floor. A New York Times report last week cites data from the Enterbrain division of Japanese research firm Famitsu Marketing as estimating only 534,336 were sold to Japanese consumers in the period between November 11 and January 7.

Putting that figure in proportion, with Microsoft barely able to crack the overseas market, Xbox 360 sales since its December 2005 Japan launch only reached 311,053 by January 7.

But with the ratio of units sold to units shipped being 3:4 in the North American market, by a rough interpretation of last week's NPD data, coupled with what could be a 1:2 ratio in Japan, the question becomes whether the launch can be considered successful. Just two months ago, there was inarguably too little supply to satiate a very meticulously cultivated consumer demand.

Yet with Sharp relieving the burden on manufacturers of high-definition blue-laser disc players, allowing Sony to earmark more of its blue-laser diodes for PS3s, soaring production in the final weeks of last year may have come too late to save waning demand. The Associated Press this morning cites a Japanese securities analyst as noting apparently languishing store inventories for PS3s there - units stuck on shelves.

While the analyst concedes that conditions could quickly change, retailers may have already planned their late-winter and early-spring restocks, and with the supply of available PS3s already full, their conclusions may already spell a dry winter for Sony worldwide in the first calendar quarter.

Sony also confirmed today cumulative worldwide shipments of 5 million units of PS3 software. With 2 million consoles shipped, it would appear Sony is preparing for an "attach rate" - a key indicator of a console's relative success - at less than 3, which is not a good sign. Analysts prefer an attach rate of 4 or above; and in the US, at least, statistics have confirmed Xbox 360's attach rate at just above 5.

While all this is going on, Nintendo may be squeaking past its competitors, with an estimated 1.14 million Wii consoles sold to Japanese consumers up until the first week of this year, according to Enterbrain.

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