For most of this year, Sony
Corp.'s PlayStation 3 videogame console seemed finally to be taking off after a slow start. The PS3, trailing Nintendo Co.'s Wii and Microsoft
Corp.'s Xbox 360 consoles, was closing in on the No. 2 Xbox 360, with new games and quarterly sales growth at twice the speed of last year.
But early results from this holiday season aren't promising. U.S. sales of the PS3 fell 19% last month from a year earlier, while sales doubled for the Wii console and rose 8% for the Xbox 360, according to research firm NPD
. Analysts say they expect PS3 sales for this month to be flat or lower than last year, while sales for its rivals are likely to rise.
And Sony may not reach its goal of selling 10 million PS3 consoles in the fiscal year through March, analysts say.
If Sony doesn't close the gap with its rivals, it could risk making the PS3 an afterthought to game publishers,
who focus most of their resources on the machines with the most users. At the end of September, the Wii had a wide lead with nearly 35 million units sold since its launch in 2006 compared with about 22 million Xbox 360 consoles and 17 million PS3 machines. Nintendo last month sold 2 million Wii machines in the U.S., while Microsoft sold 836,000 Xbox 360s and Sony sold 378,000 PS3s, according to NPD.
Sony also is suffering from a lack of attractive titles
that are exclusive to the PS3. Microsoft has hit the jackpot with two action-adventure game franchises, Halo and Gears of War, which are available only on the Xbox 360. Most of Nintendo's top games are made in house and playable only on the Wii.
Sony used to have a stable of exclusive games. But in recent years, Microsoft has persuaded most game publishers to release highly anticipated games to it and Sony at the same time
.Last month, four of the five best-selling U.S. games were exclusive to either the Wii or Xbox 360,
according to NPD. Sony's best-selling game during the month was an action shooter game, Call of Duty: World at War from Activision Blizzard
Inc. But twice as many people bought the Xbox 360 version.