Armchair analysts, heed my words: Do not forget to take into account historic sales based on the month you’re predicting.
I failed to do this when I posted my predictions a couple of weeks ago, and the numbers are… well… UGLY. Let’s get to them, then discuss each platform:
- Nintendo DS: (Actual: 440,800 Predicted: 655,000)
- Nintendo Wii: (Actual: 277,200 Predicted: 440,000)
- Xbox 360: (Actual: 185,400 Predicted: 325,000)
- PlayStation 3: (Actual: 180,800 Predicted: 310,000)
- Sony PSP: (Actual: 65,500 Predicted: 112,000)
There weren’t any NPD figures supplied for the PlayStation 2.
OK, how do we make sense of these numbers? The first thing to remember– which I never thought of– is that April tends to be a slow sales month for console gaming. It makes sense; most tax returns are already spent and the weather usually improves. Although Splinter Cell: Conviction led the software sales chart for April, it was the class of a generally weak software month all around. In fact, the only debuts on April’s chart were Conviction and the PlayStation 3 version of Super Street Fighter IV. That was it. Many new sites are highlighting the decline on sales and are painting a worse picture of the numbers than there needs to be.
Seeing the Nintendo DS in the top spot is no surprise. The platform continues to be bolstered by strong sales of Pokemon SoulSilver (#2 on the software chart) and Pokemon HeartGold (#4), plus the allure of the new DSi XL platform is still out there. The portability of the platform is a big plus, as well; being able to play pretty much wherever you want is a significant advantage to having to wait until you’re at home. Many DS games make it easy to have quick gaming sessions, such as during work/school breaks or being a passenger during travel, and the DS also has a formidable library of various titles in many genres. The DS will hold the top spot for at least another month before Nintendo officially showcases the 3DS at E3 in June and possibly takes some of the wind out of the platform’s sails.
The Wii continues to be a source of personal frustration when it comes to making predictions. When I’m bullish, sales seem to plummet… and then when I think that the platform is due for a decline, sales inexplicably bounce upwards. The degree of the decline from last month is impressive, as over 557,000 Wiis were sold in March despite having little new software in that month. April was supposed to be a little different wth the release of Monster Hunter Tri and joint advertising by Capcom and Nintendo. I expected a drop off from the lofty number posted in March, but Monster Hunter Tri never dented the Top 10 software list and was even outsold by Ubisoft’s Just Dance, which continues to baffle and impress analysts at the same time. New Super Mario Bros. Wii is still selling briskly, charting third in between both of the DS Pokemon titles, and that’s an interesting and potentially fruitful setup leading into May and the impending release of Super Mario Galaxy 2 late this month. The Wii will challenge the DS for the top spot in May, but I think that the DS will still come out just ahead.
Microsoft has little to be proud of for April when it comes to the Xbox 360. They hit their first real sales wall of 2010, and even an exclusive like Splinter Cell: Conviction was unable to ignite hardware sales. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was the only other 360 title to make the software sales chart in April, which should be disappointing for Microsoft brass. I’m a little surprised that the current Elite bundle didn’t stay hot, especially with the Halo: Reach Beta being imminent at the time and with all bundles basically guaranteeing access. Also surprising is the fact that the 360 version of Super Street Fighter IV was outsold by the PlayStation 3 version– which is not a common occurrence. May should turn more positive for Microsoft with a strong multiplatform release schedule and the launch of Alan Wake, which has been hotly anticipated and has received generally positive review scores.
The aforementioned news that the PlayStation 3 version of Super Street Fighter IV outsold the Xbox 360 version is a piece of rare good news from the Sony camp last month. God of War III stayed on the software chart for a second straight month, moving over 180,000 copies. That’s a significant drop-off from March, but staying in the middle of the chart during an off month is a good sign for the action title. Unfortunately, supply issues continue to haunt Sony when it comes to the PlayStation 3. This isn’t a situation that can be rectified quickly, but the major question is whether Sony can reignite some momentum for the platform during E3 and beyond. Buzz is high regarding PlayStation Move, and if price point projections are right, it could be a mass-market item in time for Q4… and if Sony can get through the supply shortage, the PlayStation 3 could very well be a significant player for the stretch run in 2010. As for May, though, I expect sales to rebound slightly… but to still be behind the NDS, Wii, and Xbox 360.
There’s not much that can be said about the PSP. 65,500 units is just awful for a given month. It’s a platform that, here in the United States, needs serious help. Konami and Namco are trying to help it along with new PSP games for the Metal Gear Solid and Ace Combat IPs, respectively, but the PSP seems directionless and nobody knows what Sony’s strategy is with it. With rumors intensifying of a new PSP successor to be unveiled at E3, expect PSP sales to be either flat or slightly improved for May as we wait and see what Sony has planned for the platform in June. Interestingly enough, NPD did not supply any sales numbers for the PlayStation 2, although there are rumblings out there that it actually outsold the PSP in April.
April is best known for two things: paying taxes and April Fools’ Day. Perhaps having to pay taxes instead of getting refunds may have contrubuted to the decline in sales across the board… but for analysts, the joke was on us. The industry as a whole underperformed in April and eyes are already turning to what to expect in May in order to get a sense of whether this decline is a bump in the road or a sign of trends to come as the year goes on. We’ll see how it plays out; expect my predictions for May to be up on May 31st.