I’ve had difficulty believing that I’m a decent writer.
A lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m not used to compliments. I’m not sure how to accept them sometimes. I’m always grateful that someone would take the time to tell me that they enjoyed what I wrote, or to even remotely compare me to others whom I hold in high regard personally. I’ve been mentioned in the same discussion as Michael Pachter a few times. I’ve been told by other writers or analysts whom I respect and admire that they’ve taken time out of their busy schedules to read pieces that I’ve written. These things are the ultimate compliments to me, and I value them very much.
I think I’m realizing now, with a website taking a chance on me and sending me to E3 this year, that I’ve failed to recognize what these people have been trying to tell me. I feel weird admitting that maybe I am as good as some have said, or that I do have the talent needed to possibly make something of myself in a role that I was all but ready to give up on not too long ago. I guess that I’ve always believed that keeping compliments at bay kept me grounded as a person. Not totally buying into compliments made me work harder and made me become a better writer.
I think, to quote a popular internet meme, that I’ve been “doing it wrong.”
This trip, as unexpected as it is, has everything to do with Popzara Press– and I’m very grateful for the hoops that Nathan and Chris have jumped through to get me to Los Angeles– but it may also have something to do with the idea that I might have earned this kind of trust and opportunity. This is, perhaps, what other colleagues and writers have been trying to tell me for a long time. It’s time to believe that I might be good enough to be an accomplished writer or analyst.
It’s time, to put it bluntly, to believe in myself.
I have a chance now to set things in motion for the future. I have a chance to start building my own network of contacts and take some initiative instead of relying on others. I have a chance to show that I can work under pressure. I have a chance to generate my own unique content. These are things that I’ve been told publicly and in confidence that I can do, but I never genuinely believed it until just recently.
In the past month, I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve been sourced as an analyst. I’ve participated in my first podcast. I’ve had eight Armchair Analysis pieces published. I’ve covered five earnings calls. That’s all in addition to securing my spot in college for the fall. It’s all because I finally stopped just listening and added belief to that action… and this has been perhaps the most important transition of my life so far.
So, to all of you who have ever taken the time to compliment me in my life, my writing, or anything else… It’s my turn to not only thank you for those compliments, but also to prove you right.
Earlier this week, I was given an opportunity to be a guest on The SideQuest, a regular podcast delivered by the great people over at SideQuesting. I’d never been a part of a podcast before, so this was a new experience for me. While I’ve been writing about video games for a long time, I haven’t talked about them at length since my time with The Game Guys– a weekly radio show about video games– back in 2000.
It was a lot of fun talking with Dali, Steve, and Mike for what wound up running over three hours. We covered a lot of ground, including some discussion about game delays, Take-Two, Grand Theft Auto V, 38 Studios, and a bit of what we expect from Sony at E3. Having an agenda made the show easy for me to follow as we recorded, and it’s great having the chance to talk with others who also so interested in the industry. I hope to do some more guest spots down the line. I do have one show appearance lined up in a few weeks with Rich Grisham, who I chatted with earlier this month about some interesting E3 and sports game topics. We’ll see whether anything develops during my E3 trip in Los Angeles.
Speaking of E3…
Thanks to Nathan and Chris at Popzara Press, my travel plans for the big show have been locked in. It’s going to be a hectic start– as I’m arriving at LAX just hours before E3 begins– but a relaxed finish as I’m going to be in Los Angeles for an extra day (I’m leaving Friday night). I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend and cover E3 for Popzara this year, as I wouldn’t have been able to afford travel and accommodations myself. I’m looking forward to what’s going to be a mixture of appointments and show floor exploration. Unlike last year, I have connecting flights and layovers this time… so my “baptism by fire” for travel will be interesting. My itinerary for E3 will be locked in next week, so I’m excited to get it and start preparing.
This will be just my fourth plane trip. I went to Florida twice in the early 1980s to visit my grandparents, and then I flew from Phoenix to Los Angeles last year for my first E3 trip. These flights are, obviously, much longer than a Connecticut to Florida trip or Phoenix to L.A. hop. I’m not exactly a fan of flying, either. If we were supposed to fly, we’d have wings. Instead, because I’m paranoid, I’ll be keeping an eye out for John Lithgow on the wing of my plane the whole time. If any of you have lots of flight experience, maybe you can tell me what to expect. That would be great.
The fact that I’ll only have a small amount of sleep before heading out to the Los Angeles Convention Center isn’t too concerning. I’m unfortunately not attending the Nintendo Press Conference (unless I get a miraculous invite in the next 10 days, anyone?), but that takes some of the pressure off for the first day if I don’t go. The Convention Center doesn’t open until noon, so I’ll have time to get acclimated before setting out. I’ve been trying to gradually set my internal clock to West Coast time, so I’ll be ready to rock for the duration of the event.
I’m really excited. A little nervous, given that this is really my first show as a media representative, but very excited. I can’t wait to share my impressions and experiences with you.
My latest Armchair Analysis column is live over at Popzara Press, covering Take-Two’s 2012 fiscal year earnings conference call. Topics included the financial effect of game release delays and the reasons why, the likely end of Take-Two’s license partnership with Major League Baseball, and a surprisingly strong defense of consoles in light of weakening sales in that sector. I really hope that you’ll give the piece a look if time allows.
The most interesting part of the call covers what was– and what wasn’t– said regarding Grand Theft Auto V.
A press release, containing Take-Two’s highlights and financial results from the 2012 fiscal year, was issued about 20 minutes prior to the earnings call. On the earnings release, Grand Theft Auto V is listed as a TBA (To Be Announced) release. Curiously, it’s listed in the 2013 fiscal year lineup despite the unknown date. If you take the release schedule to be chronological as it’s listed, then TBA could be inferred as March of 2013. I thought that to be a bit of a stretch before the call took place, given the announcement that XCOM: Enemy Unknown would hit retail in October and thus closing the window that the BioShock Infinite delay left open.
My opinion changed during the call, when revenue projections for the 2013 fiscal year were shared. Take-Two is expecting revenues for this fiscal year to be more than double what was taken in last year, to between $1.75 billion and $1.85 billion. That’s also more than Take-Two made in the 2011 fiscal year, when Red Dead Redemption was such a big success. Take-Two CFO Lainie Goldstein also said this during the call:
Our expected revenue range assumes the on-time release of the titles we have announced to date, as well as other titles yet to be announced for release during fiscal 2013. We expect the revenue breakdown from our labels to be roughly 60% from Rockstar and 40% from 2K.
Now, if you look at the earnings projection of $1.75 billion dollars, it’s estimated that over $1.05 billion is set to come from Rockstar. Even if Max Payne 3 sells 10 million units, that’s only about 60% of the projected revenue that Rockstar is expected to bring in during this fiscal year. Something else needs to be released to close that gap.
The plot thickened further when Eric Handler from MKM Partners asked about how projected guidance could be hit without Grand Theft Auto V. Take-Two Chairman and CEO Strauss Zelnick responded with this answer:
We’ve announced that Grand Theft Auto V is in full development. We haven’t announced a release date yet. What we have said about the year is that we have some titles that we expect to release that are not announced yet and we have a terrific slate coming up.
It’s a sidestep answer, as Zelnick obviously doesn’t want to tip his hand, but there is absolutely no certainty one way or another in this instance. There are two scenarios that come to mind. Either Grand Theft Auto V is the “unannounced” title or Rockstar has another project going that we don’t know much (if anything) about. What’s more, if you listen to the replay of the call (located via a link on this page) starting at the 39:53 mark, Zelnick’s tone in response to Handler’s question doesn’t lead you to believe that he’s denying anything. It didn’t sound like a denial to me, at all.
I am thinking that Grand Theft Auto V is on track for a release during this fiscal year, ending March 31, 2013. I believe that it’s possible that the game could ship during the fourth quarter of this calendar year, between October 1st and December 31st. I’d even go so far as to say that the October 23 date that Michael Pachter mentioned last month has a real shot at verifying. It makes some sense, given that it’s two weeks after another Take-Two release (XCOM: Enemy Unknown) and two weeks before November’s big guns like Halo 4, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and the potential release of the WiiU. There’s some concern how sales of Assassin’s Creed III may affect Grand Theft Auto V, but given the strength of the Grand Theft Auto IP, UbiSoft could be the loser in this battle if a late October date materializes.
I’m not sure how much of a presence– if any– that Grand Theft Auto V has at E3, but news could come after the event. If after-hours trading and the spike of Take-Two stock is any indicator, then I believe that investors agree with me: Grand Theft Auto V will be here a lot sooner than many expected just a few weeks ago.
It’s been nearly a month since I added anything to my retro collection, but a trip to Stateline Video Games changed that on Monday.
In total, nine NES games, one game each for SNES and Genesis, and two PlayStation games were acquired. I had to make some tough decisions, considering how short on funds I am and with E3 just two weeks away, but here’s what I got:
Baseball (NES): Most people– NES fans and general video game fans– don’t like Baseball. It’s understandable. Players have no control over fielders, there are no stats, each team and player is essentially the same, and it’s a rudimentary game at best. Having said that, it’s also based on Nintendo’s little-known Vs. Baseball coin-op. I have fond memories of playing it in a couple of local arcades back in 1985. The premise of Vs. Baseball was to play as much baseball as you could before the timer ran out. The timer was boosted when players scored runs and lost a certain amount of time when the opponent scored. Unfortunately, the timer mechanic was removed for the home version, so players were left with a basic experience that lost a little something in the conversion process. Ah, well. I still like it.
Bump & Jump (NES): I actually played a port of this coin-op on my Commodore 64 when I was younger and never played the NES port until I picked this up. I either lost a lot of skill or this version is harder. My best effort is still under 30,000 points, so I have a long way to go. I like the mechanic of ramming cars off the road and jumping to clear obstacles is not only a neat idea… but it’s a required skill in spots. I’m a little underwhelmed after a few plays, but am happy that I added Bump & Jump to my collection.
Demon Sword (NES): This game plays a lot like The Legend of Kage, so it’s no surprise that Taito was the publisher. I haven’t spent a lot of time playing this just yet, but have determined that I’ll be reading the instruction manual at some point soon. There are a lot of things about the gameplay that I don’t quite understand, so I need to brush up before giving this game another go. Not sure I made a good buying choice here, based on first impression.
Double Dribble (NES): This is the first of five Konami games that I picked up in this haul. It was cheap ($3), and it’s a very simple game of basketball. This coin-op conversion doesn’t have the epic performance of the National Anthem from the arcade game, but it’s still fun to play in short bursts and no tokens or quarters are required. Obviously video game basketball mechanics improved after Double Dribble, and Konami would later go on to make some really enjoyable arcade-style hoops games including Run ‘N Gun (ARC), NBA Give ‘n Go (SNES), and NBA In The Zone (PlayStation). I like to look back on Double Dribble as one of the better early arcade basketball games, and am glad I found it cheap.
Jackal (NES): This was one of the tough decisions that I was talking about. I chose this over Super C, mostly because it was half the price. I’m happy with my decision here. Jackal is a bit easier to play and still carries shooting and action mechanics that are engaging and enjoyable. My first play was pretty successful, making it to Stage 3 without having lost a life. I think I’m actually better at the game now than I was back in the early 1990s. I know that I have to add some Contra games to my library, but until then, Jackal scratches my war-action itch.
Jeopardy! 25th Anniversary Edition (NES): If you read this entry in my Countdown to 40 series, you’ll probably recognize this game as one of the first NES games that I ever owned. It was part of my big Christmas gift back in 1990, and when I saw it at the store on Monday, I knew I had to have it again. This game was developed by RARE Coin-It, who put together some great arcade and game show conversions for the NES along with some awesome original work. The answers here are a bit dated now, and my memory isn’t quite what it used to be. I’ve since forgotten what the correct questions are, but I used to have quite a few memorized as I played this game often. I’d even forgotten that ringing in to answer a question was done with the D-Pad instead of button input, which cost me some easy money chances early on. For what it’s worth, a Mark Twain question sunk my chances in Final Jeopardy!, which was kind of embarrassing. Anyway, moving on…
Kings of the Beach (NES): While Super Spike V’Ball covered the arcade side of beach volleyball, Kings of the Beach is a somewhat more realistic take on the sport. The characters aren’t as detailed or as large here as in Super Spike V’Ball, but there’s a greater need for strategy in this game than raw power. Rallies can be long, and positioning spikes properly is key to scoring points. There are some neat additions like arguing line calls and kicking sand after bad plays to lend character to Kings of the Beach, but more serious players will enjoy this game than casual fans will.
Rollergames (NES): If I told you that Rollergames was basically Double Dragon on roller skates, you’d probably laugh at the concept… but that’s exactly what this game is. Based on the short-lived roller derby TV series, Rollergames moved the action from the rink to the streets as players had to beat up bad guys and navigate pits and perils. It’s not a bad game, honestly, even if you’re not familiar with the source material… but it’s not unique enough to stand out among other brawlers from the period. The music is pretty good, though.
Tecmo World Wrestling (NES): I have Pat the NES Punk to thank for my decision to grab this. While watching a video of his NES collection, he mentioned Tecmo World Wrestling and cited it– along with Pro Wrestling– as the only wrestling games on the NES worth playing. I hadn’t played this before, and I really missed out. There are plenty of characters to pick from and the controls are pretty easy to learn. Seeing running commentary of the match is unique, and the graphics and sound are quite good. I’m looking forward to spending more time with this soon.
Batman Returns (SNES): When I played this game for the first time back in 1993, I was blown away. Sure, Batman Returns is an obvious Final Fight clone… but this clone has a strong license behind it and is supported by great visuals and a soundtrack that is still very impressive, coming from a cartridge. I can see where the complaints come from; enemies are too similar, the concept isn’t original, and there’s no co-op or multiplayer. At the same time, it’s a blast throwing enemies into benches or windows and breaking them. Grabbing two enemies and ramming their heads together is very satisfying. The boss battles are a bit trying, but Batman Returns makes me smile as much now as it did almost 20 years ago. This was the most expensive purchase of the day, and I ultimately chose this ($10) over the even more expensive Super Castlevania IV ($25). I may kick myself a bit for not grabbing Castlevania, but this has proven to be a worthy decision.
Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX (PlayStation): Although I spent a lot of time playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (and its awesome sequel) on the PlayStation, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX was a surprisingly enjoyable alternative. The game’s trick modifier system allows for more possibilities than ever before in an “extreme” type of game. The ragdoll physics engine is amusing for crashes, too. Seeing your rider fold like a cheap tent after a crash or bounce along the top of a train after missing a jump doesn’t get old. A strong list of licensed music tracks complements the experience, and, at $2, it was impossible to pass up.
Demolition Racer (PlayStation): After Reflections left the Destruction Derby license behind, Pitbull Syndicate tried to fill that space with Demolition Racer back in 1999. While there’s some influence from Destruction Derby apparent in this game, certain mechanics were altered to create a different racing experience. A decreasing damage meter, dropping from 100 to 0, replaced Destruction Derby‘s point of impact damage system. In this game, location-specific damage isn’t relevant and the player can focus more on driving and less on where the vehicle can sustain further damage. Vehicle handling takes some getting used to, but the driving mechanics are fairly easy to adapt to after a few races. I wonder what Criterion could do with a Destruction Derby or Demolition Racer license.
There will be more trips back to Stateline Video Games after E3, and I’ll try to share some photos of my next visit. The owner and I actually have some pretty cool ideas that he may implement in the second half of this year, like local retrogaming meetups, possible high score competitions, and more. I think I’ve found my new local home store, and I’ll share a lot more about it once the E3 rush subsides.
I’m shooting for two new Armchair Analysis pieces to hit Popzara Press this week, and then it’s E3 preparation time. If there’s something that you’re interested in having me possibly check out at the show, feel free to drop me a comment. I can’t guarantee that I’ll see it or have access to it, but it’ll be interesting to try. I’ll be meeting with Zen Studios (Pinball FX2 for Xbox 360, Marvel Pinball for Xbox 360 and PS3, Zen Pinball for 3DS and PlayStation 3), to see what the developer is working on and hopefully get a sneak peek at Zen Pinball 2 for the PS3 and Vita while there.
The countdown is on: 2 weeks until E3!
With the relocation of Armchair Analysis to Popzara Press, and with my return as an active member of the gaming press, I wanted to take some time to self-promote a little bit.
Twitter: Starting today, I’m re-activating my secondary Twitter account, ArmchrAnalyst. Moving forward, I’m going to be separating my tweets a bit so that my friends and colleagues aren’t overloaded with stats, stock quotes, and other industry observations on my main account. Plus, after some outside feedback, it makes sense for me to diversify and have a “professional” Twitter account. I’m hoping that you’ll follow both. I’m still going to be quite active on my main account, so don’t worry if you follow me there already.
Facebook: Both Armchair Analysis and Consoleation have their own Facebook pages, in addition to my own personal one. I’ve begun to get more involved with Facebook recently, especially with social games. Each page will have a quick reference of my published work; Armchair Analysis will be business and industry related, while Consoleation will be gaming-centric. I had considered expanding to Google+, but traffic and engagement don’t seem to be active enough at this time… so I’d like to focus my networking and social reference efforts on Facebook for now.
Blogs: Consoleation will continue in its current form. Expect updates about my retrogaming adventures here, plus some Armchair Analysis Extras as time allows. Site traffic, thanks to you, has been steady recently. It helps, of course, if I update regularly… so that’s going to happen as much as I can. My Armchair Analysis blog is in the process of being taken down and the content will belong to Popzara. This will allow me to focus my extra writing time here, which is a good thing.
Published Content: My relationship with Popzara Press continues to grow. As you know, the site is funding my trip to and coverage of E3… so my E3-related content will be going up there instead of here. Armchair Analysis content is my primary focus with Popzara, but I’m working to take on some review and preview responsibilities there after my return from E3. In addition, I’ve collaborated with offered analysis to a couple of great writers recently and have been sourced twice. I’m hoping this trend continues, and there are initial plans to take part in some podcasting in June.
This is a very exciting time for me, professionally, and I hope that you’ll follow along as big things continue to take place.
Details are coming into focus for my trip to E3, and my excitement level is beginning to build. As it stands, I’ll be getting into Los Angeles on Monday afternoon (June 4th) and will be staying at the Cecil Hotel for the duration of my time there. Unlike last year with KmartGamer, my direction is completely independent. There are no itineraries, no quotas, and no requisites.
Nathan from Popzara Press has given me a lot of flexibility. I’ll be covering what I can and basically taking the coverage in any direction that I choose. The show floor is huge, with lots of publishers and exhibitors to cover, so I’m sure that I won’t have a shortage of potential content. I am hoping to set up some appointments with publishers before the event, though it’s a bit of a challenge building a list of contacts from scratch. Networking is going to be a new adventure for me, as senior editors used to handle most of the PR contacts and such. I’m learning as I go.
This is a very unique opportunity for me. Last year was much like an introduction to E3, with cemented plans and tight schedules. This year is wide open, with no hand-holding. It feels like a “show me what you can do” opportunity, and I will strive to make the most of it. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of games, meeting a lot of people, and taking in the E3 experience as a member of the games media for the first time.
My road to E3 starts now, and I’ll be updating here as I reach certain checkpoints. I hope that you’ll walk down that road with me. It’s going to involve some hard work, some planning, and a whole lot of learning.
Most importantly? It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Although I don’t play PC games at all, many people that I follow on Twitter and around the internet do… and with the release of Diablo III, there were a lot of upset people because of errors and server maintenance that seriously limited the amount of available playing time on launch day. Many fingers were pointed at the “always online” aspect of the game, which solo players arguably felt unnecessary. If you believe what people say online, a fair amount of people took time off from work (sick time or vacation) to play Diablo III on the first day… which is understandable given how long fans have been waiting for this third installment.
Some of the reactions were admittedly over the top, just as we saw with the Mass Effect 3 situation a couple of months ago… but I get where this anger comes from. Paying $60 for a game that doesn’t work when you bring it home is a frustrating experience. I’ve had issues with buying games during midnight launches before, as certain online components or content were disabled for 12-18 hours after I brought the game home. It’s upsetting. Sure, the problems did eventually get fixed, but that doesn’t at all excuse the fact that they happened in the first place. I’ve railed about not being able to access my DLC content when I bought my copy of Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition, and again when my online pass for NHL 12 failed to authenticate. The Diablo III situation is different, and arguably worse, but the idea is the same: Consumers did not get the experience that they paid for on launch day.
Unfortunately, a member of the gaming press thought to publish a piece that attempted to slap consumers into reality about the Diablo III situation. The author believes people should know that “the first few days of any popular release are going to be patchy.” He tells consumers to “shut up” and “do some work”, or to perhaps “spend some time with your family”.
I don’t know whether the intent of this article was to be funny, or whether the author was serious about trying to quell anger about the botched release. Either way, it’s very poor form and the same kind of antagonistic writing that I strongly believe to be unnecessary in the realm of the gaming press. Maybe PC players are, as the author points out, used to broken launches… but if this happened to me as a paying consumer, you can bet that I’d be vocal with my anger regarding the situation. It’s not the consumer’s responsibility to understand why software launches go awry and why their games don’t work as advertised after they’ve been purchased.
I get that some people are more understanding than others when it comes to situations like this. That’s great. If you want to tell the complainers to stuff it, do it on your own blog instead of using a more prominent bully pulpit to rebuke others. You know what the better course of action is? Don’t publish content like this at all. Let consumers complain themselves out, then smile when Diablo III finally works as advertised and the initial wave of anger goes away.
All an article like the one I’ve brought to light here does is damage the credibility and respectability of the web portal that publishes it, all in the name of drawing reactionary web traffic.
I honestly thought that my trip to E3 last year was going to be my only trip.
The KmartGamer project folded, I moved from Arizona to Massachusetts and haven’t had a job since, and I had even contemplated putting my writer’s pen down for good. There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding E3 recently, which makes sense given that we’re just three weeks away. I was excited for those who were going, some of whom I’ve befriended on Twitter who are attending for the first time… but was OK with watching and reading stuff from home.
More recently, I’ve found my writing stroke again, thanks to a phone meeting with Nathan from Popzara Press a few weeks ago. He provided me with an opportunity to talk about industry sales and trends, and to bring Armchair Analysis to a new audience of readers. The terms of the opportunity were perfect for me, and I was given a lot of latitude to work at my own pace. I’ve been busy since then, thanks to that meeting and due to earnings season providing me with plenty to talk about. Once earnings season ends, E3 news would likely take over and I figured that I’d react to press events and other announcements as I have every year.
E3 was something that Nathan and I had talked about before. Attending E3 last year was possible because Kmart and Sears did everything; I wasn’t working enough to afford a trip to Los Angeles and I really didn’t (and still don’t) have many contacts “on the inside”, so those concerns were alleviated. All I really did was show up as expected, follow my itinerary, and put together some content. I told Nathan that I didn’t have any of these luxuries this year, and we tabled the discussion for awhile.
Last week, I was asked to submit my press credentials for E3. I really didn’t think anything of it, given how late in the game it was. I sent the information along, and thanked Nathan for thinking of me. It means a lot that someone that I’ve worked for over only a few weeks would have the confidence in me to think about sending me out to Los Angeles. The KmartGamer trip was more of a contest, even though it briefly became something bigger. This was different… and besides, I had no way to get out there or pay for anything, given my current state of unemployment. I had nothing to lose.
I received a rejection e-mail this afternoon. I had expected it, and forwarded it to Nathan with my gratitude. I am happy just having found what feels like a great opportunity to get back into writing, so this was less a disappointment and more a sign that we’d move on to other things. But then… things changed.
I received a second e-mail from E3 registration stating that my application had been approved, along with my confirmation barcode, while chatting with Nathan. He then dropped the biggest bombshell: Popzara Press is handling the travel and accommodations. I was– and still am– floored. We’ll be working out final details this week, but, barring any unforeseen circumstances…
I am going to E3 once again.
There’s a lot of preparation that has to happen between then and now. I am unbelievably excited and honored to have this opportunity. I’m going to be working with Nathan to hopefully set up some appointments for the event, and I’m looking forward to having a bit more time to network with some people out there. It’s going to be a different experience, and a big step for me professionally. I’ll be getting business cards ready to go, and I’m hoping to do a little more hands-on this year to go with more meetings and conversation.
I want to publicly thank Nathan and Popzara Press for having confidence in me and for making this happen. I’ll be providing the best coverage that I can, and learning a lot along the way. I look to reward that confidence by providing info and impressions from the show floor and giving readers my perspective on the controlled chaos that is E3. I’m also going to meet Armchair Analysis inspirations like Jesse Divnich, Michael Pachter, and Kevin Dent again this year– and that’s going to be a personal highlight for me.
Let the planning begin.
I just finished my analysis of April’s NPD sales data for Popzara Press. To go along with that piece, I have five observations that I’m going to expand upon for you here.
1. Gotta predict ‘em all!
As it turns out, I correctly predicted the ranking order for hardware sales in April: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, 3DS, Wii, then Vita. I came within about 20,000 units of predicting the actual Xbox 360 sales number of 236,000. I overshot it– as I did with the other platforms– but feel pretty good about getting more right than wrong when it comes to predicting hardware. I’ve had a decent record doing this, but predictions are only part of what I’m doing.
2. No Portal Kombat means sliding sales.
Mortal Kombat and Portal 2 combined last April to move well over 1.5 million units. Compare the significance of those two games with Kinect Star Wars, and Prototype 2. You really can’t. Even adding The Witcher 2 to the mix, these games simply don’t have the same kind of selling power as last April’s slate of game releases. Without prominent and captivating game releases, consumers aren’t going to spend money on software… or hardware, for that matter. Perhaps May will bring a better result with two releases potentially coming close to or exceeding a million units sold.
3. What’s wrong with the 3DS?
The 3DS has been a huge hit in Japan in 2012, but here in the US, it’s languishing. Sales of the handheld here in April were less than 150,000 units, which is about half of what it sold in Nintendo’s home territory. Defenders of the platform continue to fall back on the DS comparison and how 3DS is outperforming it within the first year, but most of those sales were in Q4 2011. Lack of significant new software is one possible reason for the malaise, but other factors like consumer moves to iOS/Android need to be considered. Perhaps a spike will come this month with the release of Mario Tennis Open, but Nintendo is going to have to deliver more games for the 3DS and try to encourage more output from its third-party publishing partners. Without games, there’s no reason to spend the $170 on new hardware.
4. “PS Vita is gaining momentum”? No. No, it isn’t.
It’s already difficult enough for those who don’t have access to raw NPD data to have Sony continually refuse to share sales specifics publicly, but it’s worse when Sony’s Corporate Communications arm delivers NPD reaction that uses dozens of words to say nothing at all. The quote above is pulled from Dan Race, Senior Director of Corporate Communications for SCEA. Unfortunately for Mr. Race, leaked NPD data shows that if Vita is “gaining momentum”, it’s not pertaining to unit sales. Vita unit sales tanked in April, falling below 100,000 units after spending its first two NPD reporting periods over 200,000 units. At least in terms of retail sales, software is seemingly non-existent after the initial wave of launch titles. Yes, it’s early, but very few consumers who haven’t already bought a Vita are going to drop $250+ on a device that has very little going for it at this point. Even if E3 delivers promises of new Vita games– which should happen– there’s no reason to buy near-term. There isn’t a killer app out there right now, and until one becomes more than just a “Coming Soon” placeholder, sales of Vita hardware will continue to struggle. Even a speculated price drop may not do much without games to support it. Vita needs to be Sony’s focus at E3, without question.
5. Are we saturated yet?
The Xbox recorded negative YOY hardware sales results for a fifth straight month, so it’s been argued that the hardware is approaching a saturation point. I think that there’s some merit to this argument, given that we’re going to be entering its seventh year on the market and that 2011 sales of Xbox 360 hardware were very impressive. That 2011 success is also a bit of a monkey on Microsoft’s back, since comps are hard to achieve a year later. Is it realistic to expect Xbox 360 sales to remain steady or improve this late in the console cycle? I don’t really think it is. Having said that, I do believe that the negative sales trend will continue and that I’m seeing a parallel to what we saw with the Wii. Waiting too long to act when your current console’s sales begin to fall can be costly. Even with a recommended price drop, I don’t see sales reacting positively for very long. Even when Halo 4 hits in November, can we expect another 1.7 million Xbox 360 units to sell? I’ll answer that question very plainly: No.
Hopefully things will improve this month. Diablo III and Max Payne 3 show promise. Will they be enough to break this losing streak? We’ll find out in a few weeks’ time.