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Xbox, Wii: "Piling It On" Against Sony in Game Console Wars

Xbox 360
CNBC.com
Xbox 360

There's been a fair amount of controversy gripping the video games console wars, with each of the three major players locked in a pitched battle for market supremacy.

Following Black Friday last month, a war of words even erupted when I wrote that Microsoft had claimed huge sales in the week including Black Friday; sales so huge that I got an unusual email from Sony the night that post went up disputing Microsoft's claims that it had outsold PS3 by a 2 to 1 margin. Wait for the NPD market research numbers to come out, I was told.

Well, they're out. The news is rosy, to say the least for Nintendo ; awesome for Microsoft; and brutal for Sony.

NPD reports that Nintendo sold a staggering 981,000 Wii units during November, the best monthly Wii sales since the console was released, and up a whopping 60 percent from November of last year. Microsoft sold 770,000 Xbox's, and Sony sold 460,000 PlayStation 3's.

Following Black Friday, Microsoft reported it sold more than 310,000 Xbox 360 consoles in the U.S. the week of Nov. 18. The figure raised more than a few eyebrows since Xbox seemed to be doing well in the face of the Wii juggernaut. But Microsoft went a big step further, claiming it outsold PS3 by that 2 to 1 margin, prompting Sony to send me this statement:

“It's (Sony) policy not to disclose our unit sales numbers until NPD numbers are officially released which will be December 13th. However, I can assure you that Microsoft's estimates of our PS3 unit sales numbers are way off and they did not outsell PS3 2:1 during Black Friday week.”

Hmmm. Based on NPD's total month sales, Microsoft appears not to have outsold PS3 in November by 2 to 1. But wow, with these overall numbers, it appears very possible that Microsoft may have been accurate for the week of sales including Black Friday. And if not completely accurate, then close. That's gotta hurt Sony as it continues to try to paint PS3 as more of a success than it really is.

Sony cut the price of the device as well, and while it's clear--based on Sony's own sales data --that the lower price helped boost sales, the console is still a distant third to Nintendo and Microsoft.

What's surprising to me is how much of a horse-race Microsoft is making out of this with Nintendo. You can thank Halo 3 for much of that, as well as a host of other exclusive titles in the Xbox 360 arsenal. NPD also wonders just how big Nintendo's sales could have been had the company not continued to suffer perceived shortages of the device at retail.

We've been tracking these trends for months. So the NPD data can't be much of a surprise. Seems the only ones who might be taken aback by these numbers are the execs at Sony who can't yet figure out a way to revive the PlayStation brand.

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