A new report by the International Data Corporation has some interesting things to say about the future of the gaming market. First, it notes that this past December, Sony has overtaken Microsoft in the console wars. The number of PS3’s shipped worldwide is now greater than the number of Xbox 360’s. Sony has shipped roughly 77 million PS3s versus the 76 million consoles that Microsoft has shipped. Granted, units shipped is not equivalent to units sold, but the two numbers are probably very similar. It’s rare for a console to pull ahead of its competitors this late in a generation, and when you consider that Microsoft had a head start, and an advantage in pricing, Sony’s recent numbers are all the more impressive.
The report also went into detail about the state of consoles and game discs. People love to speculate about the death of the console, giving ways to smart TVs, PCs, and mobile platforms, but according to IDC, consoles aren’t going anywhere. "The console ecosystem is in a state of flux since these platforms need to support an ever-growing array of non-gaming features and services at the same time that game distribution and monetization is moving in a digital direction," said Lewis Ward, research manager of IDC's Gaming service. "At the same time, it doesn't appear that alternative platforms - set-top boxes from cable companies, Web-connected smart TVs, and so on - are positioned to materially disrupt the trajectory of the 'big 3' console OEMs in 2013 or 2014. Discs will remain the console game revenue mainstay for years to come."
However, the report does go on to speak about how digital distribution is affecting the market. Supposedly, disc sales will drop three percent each year through 2016. The market will move more toward digital distribution as a whole, but whether or not that will ever be the primary means of game distribution is yet to be seen.
Finally, the report had some good news for Nintendo fans. It predicts that the Wii U will eventually ship 50 million units by 2016. This doesn’t put the console ahead of the current day PS3 and Xbox 360, but it puts it damn close and in only half the time. The Wii U does not seem to be growing as fast as the Wii did, but it’s still a hugely popular console, even now with its short release list. Analysts guess that this year’s E3 will be the grand reveal of Sony and Microsoft’s new consoles. We will have to wait and see whether or not they can contend with the Wii U’s speed of growth after they release.