As Microsoft prepares for the E3 video game conference next week, the company is already taking the opportunity to promote its progress in that arena.
According to the software giant, it has now sold 55 million Xbox 360 units worldwide since the device's launch in 2005. Perhaps most importantly, sales are "accelerating," Microsoft said, and in the first four months of 2011, Xbox 360 sales were up 29 percent compared to the same period in 2010.
That success, partly due to the, is helping Microsoft claim that it's bucking a common trend in the gaming-hardware business that sees console sales start to decline in the fifth and sixth years of their life cycle.
Most major consoles, including the PlayStation 1, GameCube, and Nintendo 64, saw sales decline during their fifth and sixth years. The Xbox 360, along with the PlayStation 2, according to Microsoft's chart, have been able to increase sales during that period.
"Microsoft has 'changed the tail' of the typical console life cycle, showing dramatic gains in the fifth and sixth years of this generation," a company spokesperson wrote in an e-mail to CNET today.
However, it's worth noting that Sony's PlayStation 3 is starting to close the gap. Just a few years ago, Microsoft's console was easily besting Sony's. But the PlayStation 3's sales have been growing quite rapidly. According to Sony's hardware page, it sold 3.5 million PlayStation 3 units during the last two quarters of its fiscal 2006 year. In its fiscal 2007, the first full year of PlayStation 3 sales, it sold 9.1 million units. During its last-reported year, Sony sold 14.3 million PlayStation 3 consoles worldwide.
All told, Sony has sold 50 million PlayStation 3 units worldwide since that console's launch in 2006.
But both companies have a long way to go to catch up to Nintendo. Earlier this year, the company revealed in itsthat through March 31, it had sold over 86 million Wii units worldwide since the launch in 2006.
Hardware aside, Microsoft also announced today that 35 million people are now actively using its online gaming and entertainment platform around the world. Those users spend an average of nearly 60 hours each month on the service, totalling 2.1 billion "entertainment hours."