Game’s not over, system rivals say

By Jae-Ha Kim and Misha Davenport
Chicago Sun-Times
December 7, 2001

The video-game console war between Microsoft’s Xbox and Nintendo’s GameCube heated up this week, with each side declaring itself the winner.

Both companies introduced their systems within days of each other in mid-November. Sifting through the rhetoric to actually declare a champion is more challenging than game play on either controller.

Microsoft said it bested Nintendo’s sales by some 90,000 units, making it the best-selling game console. The company cites the NPD Group, an independent research firm, for those figures.

But rival Nintendo claims its GameCube now holds the title of the fastest-selling home video-game console, with nearly 608,000 systems sold as of Tuesday.

“Where’s Nintendo getting its numbers?” asks David Hufford, Xbox’s product manager. “Our numbers are based on NPD’s cumulative data for two weeks.”

NPD is asking the same question about Microsoft. NPD spokeswoman Dora Radwick wouldn’t confirm the accuracy of Microsoft’s figures, other than to say they didn’t come from NPD–a claim that Microsoft emphatically denies.

“We worked with NPD to get those numbers,” Huffurd insists.

But Nintendo scoffs at early comparisons.

“Microsoft had a three-day advantage on us,” vice president of corporate affairs Perrin Kaplan says.

“[The figures reflect] seven full days for Microsoft [sales] and four days for us.”

NPD’s official sales figures will be released next week.

The real story, says Bob Blandeburgo, news editor at gamers.com, is in the software people are putting into those systems.

“All three companies [Microsoft, Nintendo and PlayStation 2 maker Sony] are losing money on the [consoles],” Blandeburgo says. “They make money on the software.”

In that department, Microsoft claims to have the edge: The Xbox, it says, is selling 2.4 games with each console, compared to GameCube’s 1.9.

“Halo,” a sci-fi shoot- ’em-up, is the top-selling title for Xbox. Two weeks ago, it was the top seller for all video games. But PlayStation 2’s “Metal Gear Solid 2” is now the top seller, moving more than one million units in its first week of sales.

Produced by Microsoft, “Halo” has benefitted from strong word of mouth and critical praise, including a perfect 10 rating from Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine in Oak Brook. Other popular Xbox titles include Activision’s “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2x” and Tecmo’s martial-arts themed “Dead or Alive 3.” Both games have benefitted from heavy television ad campaigns since the console’s launch.

GameCube, meanwhile, continues to benefit greatly from Nintendo’s Mario Bros. franchise. “Luigi’s Mansion,” which sends Luigi quest to find Mario in a haunted mansion, is currently selling well.

LucasArts is pleased with the performance of its GameCube title “Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader.” Based on the “Star Wars” franchise, the game is LucasArts’ fastest-selling title ever.

Another Mario Bros.-related title, “Super Smash Bros. Melee,” is currently the top-selling video game in Japan. It was released in the States this week and is already sold out in many stores–a good indication that it will be this week’s top seller.

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