PS3 tops Wii in Japan for first time

TOKYO (Reuters) - Sony Corp's 6758.T PlayStation 3 outsold Nintendo Co Ltd's 7974.OS Wii game console in Japan in November for the first time, raising the prospect that Sony might regain its dominance in the global videogame market.

Visitors use microphones to play a Playstation 3 Singstar at an exhibition stand of Japanese Sony company at the Games Convention 2007 fair in the eastern German city of Leipzig August 22, 2007. Sony Corp's PlayStation 3 outsold Nintendo Co Ltd's Wii game console in Japan in November for the first time, raising the prospect that Sony might regain its dominance in the global videogame market. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Sony, which launched the consoles a year ago, sold 183,217 PS3 in Japan in the four weeks to November 25, topping sales of 159,193 Wii consoles, according to game magazine publisher Enterbrain, a key watcher of trends in the sector.

Sony dominated the game industry for about a decade with previous generations of its PlayStations but lost its crown to the low-cost Wii with its new idea of a motion sensor in the control unit.

This opened the way to a whole new range of games and even exercise programs and helped expand the gaming population beyond core users of young males to women and the elderly.

“Wii Sports”, one of the most popular game titles for the Wii, allows grandparents to have a virtual tennis match with their grandchildren in a living room.

Analysts said the latest data was encouraging for the prospects of the PS3, but it was too early to paint a rosy picture for the Sony machine.

“Overseas, I don’t really see the PS3 doing that much at Christmas time primarily because it’s still more expensive than the other machines and has less software,” KBC Securities analyst Hiroshi Kamide said.

“It’s nice to see the system selling much better than six months ago. But is it a sustainable trend? Is it going to really escalate from here? I’m not so sure.”

Some months saw 5-6 times as many Wii units sold as PS3s in Japan, an important battleground for the Japanese console makers and U.S. rival, Microsoft MSFT.O and its Xbox 360 console.

The PS3 was hampered by a scarcity of strong game titles and a high price tag, but Sony said more games were now available and it has cut prices.

Sales have also been boosted by a new mid-range model with a 40-gigabyte hard disk drive, the company said.

In a bid to breathe vigor back into Wii sales, Nintendo will launch a “Wii Fit” home fitness game in Japan on Saturday.

The new game features a pressure-sensing mat called “Wii Balance Board”, which looks like a bathroom scales and can sense when a person moves and leans, enabling players to “head” virtual soccer balls and experience ski jumping on a TV screen.

Sony shares closed down 0.5 percent at 6,010 yen, ending a five-day, 15 percent winning streak after Dubai International Capital, a private equity company owned by the ruler of Dubai, made a substantial investment in the firm.

Shares in Nintendo, Japan's third most valuable company behind Toyota Motor Corp 7203.T and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group 8306.T, gained 3.7 percent to 67,500 yen.

Editing by Rodney Joyce and Jean Yoon