PS3, Xbox Sales Grow Hi-Def Disc Universe

Initial U.S. sales of Sony PlayStation 3 launched last weekend were reported to be brisk, as widely expected, and most retailers sold out their very limited initial supplies in a matter of minutes (including pre-orders, in many instances). In all, an estimated half-million PS3 units were sold in this first wave of available consoles.

Meanwhile, online sales by new private owners of PS3 units were pulling in prices several times the mortar-store points on various auction sites, which was the admitted intent of a lot of first-time buyers looking for fast turn-around profits. The U.S. launch of PS3 followed an equal amount of frenzied buying in Japan a week.

All these game console sales provide additional good news for HD proponents. With each PS3 sale, another Blu-ray Disc consumer is created. Initial sales of rival HD DVD drives as add-ons to existing Xbox 360 units also were reported to be heavy, although no early figures were available from Microsoft or retailers. (Nintendo's Wii also went on sale in recent days, but the game console does not tap into HD technology.)

For Sony, the sales success of PS3, especially in the long run, is a huge deal that could affect its overall health for years to come. According to The Economist, Sony needs the PS3 to succeed for three key reasons: to maintain its lucrative dominance of the games industry; to seed the market for Blu-ray Disc and establish Sony in the emerging market of Internet video downloads; and to show that the turnaround being led by Sony CEO Howard Stringer (the first American in that post) is working.

"Despite the enthusiasm of the PS3's early buyers, success in each of these areas is far from assured," the British publication noted.