And Microsoft definitely needs to look out for that lead. NPD reported recently that January was the first month since the beginning of the console wars that the Playstation 3 outsold the Xbox 360, and the PS3's momentum continued into February, where it again outsold the Xbox 360. To combat that momentum, it's likely that a U.S. price cut will shortly follow the European one. Rumors about new, cheaper 360 chipsets have been floating around since February, making it even more likely that we'll see cheaper Xboxes here in the states.
To try to counter these price cuts, Sony's has its newest advantage: the Blu-Ray player. Now that Toshiba has pulled out of the market and the HD-DVD format is on the way to joining Betamax and Laserdiscs, Sony's Blu-Ray player has gone from a gamble to a sure thing for prospective buyers -- a development my colleague Josh discussed last month. Microsoft has confirmed that the 360 won't be getting a Blu-Ray peripheral, so the ability to play next-gen discs is exclusive to Sony.
But in my mind, it's not the Blu-Ray that's driving sales. Back in December, I suggested that although Sony's sales were improving, the PS3 continues to lag behind the 360 because of the absence of good titles. In the grand tradition of journalistic predictions, that one turned out to be wrong. The PS3's momentum has continued. But the big question is, can it continue that momentum in the face of falling prices on the Xbox 360?
Chances are the price cuts in Europe (and the likely cuts in the U.S.) will slow the PS3's momentum, but not halt it. Sony's likely to announce a price cut later this year, which could convince the fence sitters (like this columnist, for example) to take the plunge and make the purchase.