Games consoles: four phases of sales

March figures for game console sales in the USA have been released. Sony’s PS2 is still the biggest seller, with 280,000 units sold. Then comes the Nintendo Wii with 259,000, Microsoft’s Xbox360 with 199,000 and the Sony PS3 with 130,000.

Most discussion will, no doubt, centre on the continuing sales success of the Wii and many commentators will probably suggest that their success is due to the price differences between the consoles. This made me think … I reckon that there are four broad phases in sales for a games console.

In the first phase we have the early adopters, for whom price is of no real concern. They may bitch and moan about it, but they’re always going to buy at pretty much any price. This is when Gabe and Tycho from Penny Arcade buy their systems.

In the second phase, both price and branding/public-perception/coolness-of-the-games come into it, but price is the dominant determinant because the console hasn’t been around long enough to build a reputation. This is when the cool (i.e. rich) kids buy them.

In the third and probably longest phase, reputation and coolness-of-the-games dominate price in determining demand. This is when the poorer (but not dirt-poor) kids, sick of being ostracised by their peers for being terminally uncool, ratchet up the whining until their parents crack.

The fourth phase, which not all consoles reach, is determined entirely by the staying power created by the variety and quality of games. This is when the poorest of the poor decide to give themselves a treat by buying a console that is clearly out of date, but still looks like being worthwhile.

I’d suggest that the consoles are currently:
PS2 – Recently entered the 4th phase
Wii – Recently entered the 2nd phase
360 – Been in the 2nd phase for a while now
PS3 – Approaching the end of the 1st phase

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