Three Horse Race

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Every year there is a major race on for the consumers’ money. And this winter is no different. So what is the form guide for the runners going into the race, and what are the odds on a new leader?

Sony has trailed in third place for much of the year. A lack of big name exclusives and the relative failure of Home to attract users was a severe penalty. The redesigned PS3 Slim and PSPGo gained a lot of momentum for Sony after E3, and the sales surge came on the back of a much improved advertising campaign. Titles such as LittleBigPlanet and Uncharted 2 have been put across to the viewer in a much better way, along with other useful features including the BBC iPlayer.

Microsoft has maintained a good grip on second place. Reliability is still an issue, with the Red Ring of Death and other failures affecting many users. The exclusive Episodes from Liberty City and a continued strong showing from Live Arcade (with titles such as Shadow Complex) have meant that for much of the year the sales curve has been steady – good work in a difficult time for the industry as a whole.

Nintendo had galloped ahead of the pack with the DS and Wii, but both have struggled in hardware terms. Wii sales have slowed dramatically, and the uptake of the DSi has not been as widespread. The newly revamped LL with its larger screens has not helped matters. The key for Nintendo is the long “tail” on many of its games – Wii Fit continues to sell strongly, and no doubt the same will be true for the enhanced version. Motion Plus has added a new dimension to the titles that use it, and both WiiWare and DSiWare have been attracting some strong releases.

The music genre continues to be the strongest, with so many good releases – new Lips, new Singstar, Band Hero, Lego Rock Band, Rock Band Unplugged on PSP, and of course the new expensive peripheral-based DJ Hero. The standout has to be The Beatles Rock Band, with its exquisite presentation, vocal harmonies and attitude to DLC (with money from the release of All You Need Is Love going to charity).

But undoubtedly the biggest thing to hit the industry is Modern Warfare 2. Not only is it set to dominate sales in the run up to Christmas, but many big name titles shifted back into 2010 to avoid it. The bad news is that the supermarkets are prepared to use it as a loss leader in their battle for sales – devaluing the game and affecting dedicated games retailers.

So can Sony and Microsoft make ground on Nintendo? And when will the fanfare sound for the next generation, bred from what has been successful this time around?

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