In addition to the original PlayStation games that I got (which I mentioned in my last blog entry), I also took advantage of a Buy 2, Get 2 Free sale on pre-owned PlayStation 2 games at a GameStop nearby the Bookmans location that I had visited. Unfortunately, the GameStop stores here in the Phoenix area are slowly getting rid of PlayStation 2 games and shipping them to other markets… so it’s becoming more difficult to add games to my collection. I did luck out and find a couple of games on my wish list… along with a few others:
Katamari Damacy (Complete for $13.50): Yes, I finally own a copy of the original Katamari Damacy. This was one of the games on my list, and I was fortunate to find it complete with case and manual. While the sequels were fine, there’s no way to top the first game in terms of originality, music, and feel. I remember playing it for the first time back in 2003 and thinking about how wonderfully odd it was. I never thought that it would spawn future games; in fact, I considered it to be like an Incredible Crisis or Mister Mosquito. It was to be a one-shot deal, or so I guessed. I’m glad I was wrong about that, but owning both Katamari games for the PlayStation 2 feels complete. I did buy the digital download of Beautiful Katamari for the Xbox 360, but it’s just not the same. The original stands as the best game in the series, to me.
NHL Hitz 20-02 (Disc only for $1.80): This was also on my wish list. After playing a few games, the basic gameplay mechanics still hold up today. It’s not as “real” as EA‘s NHL games are today (and I can’t wait for NHL 12 on 9/13), but the arcade-style feel is wonderfully frenetic. The usual Midway game aspects are here– such as pre-game codes and the ability to be “on fire”– but what stands out to me is the amount of replay value that this game has. Things that gaming consumers would have to pay for as DLC now, like secret teams and players, extra venues, and so on, are all included for unlocking as you play and earn “credits” to spend on them. Want to play as a shark or a pirate? Probably not, but you can in this game. All I need now is NHL Hitz 20-03 to complete the trifecta. Here’s hoping that I get lucky.
SoulCalibur II (Disc only for $4.49, came with Namco Transmissions demo disc): Has it really been 8 years since the multiplatform launch of SoulCalibur II? Indeed. The PlayStation 2 version arguably had the weakest character in Heihachi Mishima, but it could also be argued that the PlayStation 2 controller was the best control option that wasn’t a fight stick. Weapon Master mode was a personal favorite, and what really stood out to me was the accessibility of the game to anyone who wanted to play. I actually still own an Ivy action figure that I won in a SoulCalibur II tourney that GameStop held during the week of launch. I finished second, and I’m not exactly a professional player. The game also looked great (and still does, in my opinion) and the soundtrack was one of the best around. I still have the soundtrack disc, in fact. Namco might have overshipped copies of the game, as they’re still easy to find, but I enjoy playing SoulCalibur II and that’s what’s important as it’s back in my collection.
WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain (Disc only, free after promotion): There was a time that I was “into” the wrestling scene. I wasn’t a super-fan or anything, but I used to watch WWE and WCW programming regularly and even spent money on Pay-Per-Views. The catalyst for my interest was former co-workers at FuncoLand who hooked me on playing WCW/NWO Revenge on the Nintendo 64. From there, I bought and played most of the wrestling games that came out… but it was the WWF/WWE SmackDown! series that always stood out to me. Wrestling game fans constantly praise and lament the loss of more technical games from Aki, like WWF No Mercy or WWF Wrestlemania 2000, but I prefer a more arcade-style experience. As the SmackDown! series moved from the original PlayStation to the PlayStation 2, fans got voice work from wrestlers and more authenticity. Fans believe that Here Comes the Pain (released in 2003) is one of the best SmackDown offerings ever. I haven’t played it much yet, but am glad to be able to give it some playing time for the low price of FREE.
ESPN NHL Hockey (Disc only, free after promotion): The 2K5 line of ESPN sports games from SEGA and Visual Concepts was awesome, but the 2K4 lineup had planted the seeds of success. Sporting full ESPN licensing, ESPN NHL Hockey was far superior to its competition from EA Sports, on all levels. The biggest difference between ESPN NHL Hockey and ESPN NHL 2K5? Price. The former set fans back $50. The latter? $20. Also… Jeremy Roenick was the cover athlete for ESPN NHL Hockey. I’m fine with that.
NHL 2003 (Disc only, free after promotion): Oh, look. Another hockey game. This was free, too, so there. So what’s the significance? The introduction of a Franchise mode and the return of Don Taylor and NHL Cards. Franchise mode was big; being able to play and track multiple seasons was a long-overdue addition and added replay value as players were able to compete for and hopefully defend the Stanley Cup in successive years. The addition of Don Taylor as a color commentator in NHL 2002 and NHL 2003 was a sticking point with me back then because the commentary work had taken a decidedly comedic turn. I’m fine with it now, though; Taylor can be funny in spots and his delivery is spot on. As for the NHL Cards feature, it was the introduction of achievements into the flow of gameplay. Earning points for actions like completing passes or scoring goals was unique at the time… even though we take it for granted now. This game isn’t perfect– in fact, it’s weaker than NHL 2002– but I still like it.
SNK Arcade Classics Volume 1 (Complete for $8.99): I am not the biggest fan of the Neo Geo platform, but some of the games hold nostalgia value for me. Neo Turf Masters is a game that I would play for hours at a local arcade back in 1997. Metal Slug is the Contra homage that never got the mainstream respect it deserved. Baseball Stars 2 was enjoyable arcade baseball, even though I never could get the timing for batting down to a science. These games (and 13 others) are included on the SNK Arcade Classics disc, and it’s a great addition to the other arcade compilation discs that I own for the PlayStation 2 platform. Like any good compilation disc, this one has unlockables and bonuses that get players to try each title to see what they can open up. Maybe now I can try to figure out what people see in SNK’s fighting games… but I can’t promise anything.
I’m sure that you’re noticing that only seven games are listed. I did get an eighth (Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit), but it doesn’t work and I have to get a replacement. It was the last of my four freebies, so I guess I can’t complain too much. I would like to get the replacement soon, though; after playing the remake on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, it’d be nice to play the original again… with a little less Burnout and rubber-band AI at play.
I’m closing in on 200 PlayStation 2 games now. I’m not sure how many more games (if any) that I’ll be adding to my collection given that I’m not working much and that I’ll be moving in a few weeks, but I think that my collection has become pretty formidable in a relatively short amount of time. I’m proud of that. I’m also working on cataloging my collection, slowly but surely. It’s a work in progress, but it’s coming along. I’m also setting up a bit of a wishlist there, as well. I know that some of you may already be on IGN– feel free to add/follow/monitor me there, if you’d like.
That’s it for now. I know that content at KmartGamer has been a bit lacking of late, but with the busy release season upon us, expect to see more content from the League of One– including from myself. With the release of August’s NPD numbers coming either this week or next, you’ll be seeing some analysis from me soon after. As always, feel free to keep the comments and feedback coming.
Namco’s Ridge Racer series and I have a long history.
Nearly 16 years ago, I played Ridge Racer for the first time on an import PlayStation unit at an independent game store. I was hooked almost instantly. It’s not that Ridge Racer necessarily did anything different than other racing games that I’d played before, but it was colorful, fast, and the music stayed in my head long after my play session came to an end. I knew from that night on that I would be spending $300 on a PlayStation come September 9th, 1995… and that was only the beginning.
I’ve played almost every Ridge Racer game since. Ridge Racer Revolution was decent but felt more like an extension of the original when it debuted in 1996. Rage Racer followed in 1997, and it was a stark contrast to the earlier games as earning money for winning races and choosing the right car for each race were much different than the straight arcade style that the Ridge Racer games were known for previously. Ridge Racer Type 4 made tweaks yet again with the Real Racing Roots ’99 campaign, improved visuals (like taillight streaks), and a jazz-infused soundtrack that still rates as one of the best around. I still own all of these, save for the original Ridge Racer, which I’m hoping makes its way onto the PlayStation Store at some point.
When I bought my PlayStation 2 in 2001, Ridge Racer V was one of the games I got at the same time, along with NHL 2001, SSX, and Swing Away Golf. Ridge Racer V was a big jump in terms of graphics for the series, and the return of the original Ridge Racer course with a new coat of visual paint was amazing to behold. The lighting effects blew me away and the framerate had been greatly improved over the 30fps from the original PlayStation title. These visual improvements didn’t get in the way of classic Ridge Racer gameplay, which was very important. The interesting story mode was gone, in favor of a return to a more arcade-style feel, but Ridge Racer V felt like a return home for a franchise that had undergone changes for the previous two installments– and that was fine by me.
Getting an Xbox 360 and a PlayStation 3 over the course of this console generation, I bought Ridge Racer 6 and Ridge Racer 7, respectively. I wasn’t initially a fan of the new focus on drifting and gaining nitrous boosts, but it grew on me. The visuals were improved once again, and seeing Ridge City in high definition was– and still is– jaw-dropping. I still own all three of these games, as well. As with Ridge Racer V, there were nostalgic nods to previous games in the series. Music tracks from past games were available for download. The infamous Ridge Racer helicopter looked better than ever, as did the original Ridge Racer course– which was beautiful in its familiarity. Ridge Racer 6‘s World Explorer mode was an interesting way to approach single-player racing and the accent on collecting cars was reminiscent of Ridge Racer Type 4. I prefer Ridge Racer 7, if only because it feels like a more complete version of Ridge Racer 6 and the ability to adjust and tune vehicle parts was welcome.
When I found out that Ridge Racer 3D was going to be a launch title for the Nintendo 3DS, I knew that I had to have it… even though I really didn’t know what to expect from it. Screenshots weren’t exactly promising,, but I was still excited. The prospect of Ridge Racer in 3D was admittedly pretty cool, and I had faith that we wouldn’t see a disastrous effort like we’d seen with Ridge Racer DS… which was a sloppy port of an already-weak game in Ridge Racer 64. In a sea of average launch titles, I had hope that I could count on Ridge Racer 3D to be a good complement to Super Street Fighter IV.
Then… I played it. A lot.
Ridge Racer 3D won’t win any awards for technical achievement. The frame rate returns to the the PlayStation’s familiar 30fps and lots of visual touches that we’ve been accustomed to seem to be missing. The game really doesn’t do much to break the mold that was set by the others in the series, but it’s still a fantastic experience and was meant for me, the Ridge Racer fanatic. It’s all about fan service, and Namco delivers it in spades with this game. Bits and pieces of many of the games that I mentioned earlier are here: classic race circuits, classic music, and classic gameplay. Car models aren’t all that detailed, but seeing them approach (or blow by you) in 3D is pretty amazing. Seeing tracks from Ridge Racer Revolution, Rage Racer, and even variations of tracks from Ridge Racer 6 makes me smile. Music tracks from older games join with new creations to fill the soundtrack, and the built-in psuedo-surround effect from the 3DS’ speakers adds to the quality. The Grand Prix progression is a cross between Rage Racer and Ridge Racer 7 as points are used to buy new vehicles and upgrades. The gameplay is pure Ridge Racer, no matter whether you use the D-pad or the analog disc, as you tear around the track and deftly drift through corners and hammer the gas to straighten out. There is an option to drift “on demand” with a button press, similar to Tokyo Highway Battle, but series veterans not only won’t need this… but they won’t want it.
The formula feels similar to what Namco did with its Ridge Racer release for the PSP, but with a 3D coating. The experience is pretty long; a couple of hours into the game, I’m only just now unlocking the second tier of cars with more power and speed. I’m aiming to turn in a review for Gaming Nexus, but may do one here as well. What I can say, even at this early stage, is that Ridge Racer 3D is already my favorite 3DS game and looks to stay that way for at least a few more weeks.
Thank you, Namco, for giving me the game that I didn’t know I wanted.
Back in 1999, when I first got my hands on the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater demo for my PlayStation, I knew that I was in trouble. I played it for hours, trying to improve my scores and seeing what crazy combinations of tricks that I could muster. I’d never ridden a skateboard– and I still haven’t– but games like Skate or Die on the Commodore 64, Top Skater in the arcade, and even Street Sk8er for the PlayStation put me in a position where I could actually be that cool guy on the board without breaking every bone in my body. Pro Skater had that certain something, though… it was an addictive mix of intuitive controls, easy-to-learn gameplay, and competing for high scores. After spending hours on the demo, I bought the retail game in September of 1999 and the rest was history.
Some players hail Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 for the PlayStation to be the best game of the series, and I can certainly understand why it’s so well-liked. Adding the manual to gameplay, which allowed for longer trick combos and higher scores, was just one of several improvements over the original. Skater abilities were now improved by finding and spending cash to buy stat points, instead of automatically upgrading after certain points in the first game. The ability to build your own skate park was pretty amazing, and players could create their own skaters for the first time, as well. I’ll admit that I spent more time playing Pro Skater 2 than I did Chrono Cross, and since both games were new at the time, that was of personal significance.
Although it was the first of many games in the series to hit the PlayStation 2, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 was the perfect balance between the old and the new and remains the most accessible Tony Hawk game ever created. For my first PlayStation 2sDay column, it’s time to take a look at five reasons why I consider Pro Skater 3 to be one of the best skateboarding games around:
1. Revert + Manual = Crazy Scores
The addition of the revert move in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 allowed for some of the longest and highest-scoring lines ever devised. By pressing either the L2 or R2 buttons just after landing on a half-pipe, players can continue to link tricks to a chain. Add this to the manual that Pro Skater 2 introduced, and scoring combos of 100,000 points or more becomes not only possible, but likely. You’re going to need to master both moves in order to meet some of the scoring goals in later stages of the game. Believe me.
2. Not Too Easy, Not Too Hard
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 was the first game in the series to have just the right level of difficulty to beat the game 100%. Sure, you could technically “beat” the first two games without getting all of the tapes or cash, but Pro Skater 3 was all about goals when it came to progression. The secret tapes weren’t terribly difficult to obtain, the scoring parameters were fair (especially with the new level design that allowed for some very high scoring), and none of the goals were really frustrating to achieve. That’s not to say that the game is a cakewalk by any means, but the challenge level just felt right to me and allowed for multiple playthroughs with different skaters. I also liked the decision to get rid of cash for stat upgrades and replace it with item pickups.
3. PlayStation 2 Power
For the first time, mostly because of the PlayStation 2′s more powerful hardware, we saw a Tony Hawk game cruising at 60 frames per second. This significantly raised the speed of the game, as well. Seeing all of the different tricks executed with such smooth animation was especially satisfying when the game first debuted, as we’d been accustomed to a much choppier frame rate of about 30 frames or so per second. There are other more subtle touches like lighting and blood effects that look a lot better as a result of the stronger hardware. The funny thing about the Tony Hawk games from this console generation as opposed to the PlayStation 2 generation is that the frame rate has actually dipped back to 30 after Pro Skater 3 had set the bar nearly a decade ago.
4. Play It Again, Dudes!
One of the best things about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 is that there’s more to see and do after playing through the game. Multiple replays are rewarded with changes in item placement and new content. It’s not the same game twice, at least in terms of collectibles and strategy, so it was worthwhile to play once through as your favorite skater, again as a created skater, and at least once more as a hidden skater. Since the game’s difficulty was pretty reasonable to start with, it’s fun to play through again and maybe collect a couple of those stat points that you missed last time. It’s this kind of replayability that keeps Pro Skater 3 in my gameplay rotation with regularity.
5. Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 was the last of the games in the series that held fast to timed runs and accomplishing goals quickly, and that is the formula that has always worked best. From Pro Skater 4 and on, Neversoft took a more reactive approach and made the Tony Hawk games more open, similar to the sandbox structure in Grand Theft Auto III. This was never a good move for the franchise, and it was evident by seeing Classic Mode additions to later games which almost seemed to be letters of apology to fans who disliked the new direction. Timed runs keep the tension high and allow for quicker gameplay sessions rather than meandering around an open area and hunting down missions to undertake. Criterion took a similar approach with Burnout Paradise after a series of successive sequels and reaction was quite mixed. The bottom line here is that Pro Skater 3‘s success comes in no small part from adhering to the same formula that made the earlier games successful without making wholesale changes. The series has not been the same since, in terms of quality, accessibility, or fun.
It’s fitting that PlayStation 2sDays have kicked off with what is still one of my favorite games of all time, on the PlayStation 2 or otherwise. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 still plays as well today as it did in late 2001. It’s still satisfying to pull off huge combos and scores, and the gameplay is still as easy to learn and difficult to master as ever. You can Get Chuck Unstuck, travel the world by grinding through country flags at the Airport, and trigger a game-changing earthquake… all from your favorite gaming chair. I’d love to hear about your Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 experiences. What do you remember about it? Did you ever try the online play? Who were your favorite skaters? Do you still own the game today? Post your comments, memories, experiences, and other stuff below and share!
If you have any suggestions for games that you’d like to see covered in future installments of PlayStation 2sDays, feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com and I’ll see if I can put it in the rotation. I’m working on building my PS2 collection this year, so if I don’t have the game you’re looking to see covered, I can add it to my wishlist.
See you next 2sDay!
As April comes to a close, it marks the end of a pretty quiet month. Prominent new software releases were minimal, and there wasn’t any new hardware to speak of. These factors make for a bit of a challenging month when trying to predict numbers, because you have to read between the lines and rely more on trends than current events to try and forecast where the NPD numbers will fall. We still have the residual effect of the Pokemon launch from March, plus the DSi XL is still new and interest in the hardware will likely affect the bottom line. Supply issues still seem to be affecting the PlayStation 3 platform, and there were no new major software releases in April for it. The Xbox 360 may have gotten a boost from Splinter Cell: Conviction in April, while the Wii is difficult to call based on recent monthly performance.
Having said that, it’s time to unveil the numbers:
- Nintendo DS: 655,000 units
- Nintendo Wii: 440,000 units
- Xbox 360: 325,000 units
- PlayStation 3: 310,000 units
- Sony PSP: 112,000 units
- PlayStation 2: 103,000 units
The Nintendo DS will rule the roost once again for April. Pokemania and interest in the DSi XL will combine to create impressive hardware sales results. Trends will also tell you that the Mario IP is still hot, with older titles like New Super Mario Bros. and Mario Kart DS both staying consistent in the bottom half of the NPD Top 20 Software Sales charts. Even if consumers find the DSi XL to be too expensive, they can fall back on the DSi or DS Lite to get their portable gaming fix… so Nintendo wins here in any direction. News of the Nintendo 3DS is still slow to penetrate the casual consumer base, so rather than wait and see for that device, consumers can and will continue to buy Nintendo DS units and keep the portable juggernaut at or near the top of the sales charts for the foreseeable future.
The Nintendo Wii has been almost impossible to predict when it comes to sales. The platform disappoints you when you’re bullish, but in months where you don’t expect much and make lower predictions– like March, for example– it sells a ton. Monster Hunter Tri was the big release for April, and it’s likely that strong demand for New Super Mario Bros. Wii will continue as the game continues to show impressive legs. Although some good arguments have been made here about the viability of Super Mario Galaxy 2 as a system seller, I firmly believe that the title will take advantage of the IP momentum and that Nintendo will do an impressive job marketing the game and making consumers want to buy it. That obviously won’t directly apply to April’s sales numbers, but increased visibility and advertising in certain retail locations may be drumming up interest in purchasing and playing the original Super Mario Galaxy game to be ready for the sequel. As mentioned above… Mario is hot right now.
The Xbox 360 should likely continue its impressive streak with another month of over 300,000 units sold. Splinter Cell: Conviction will be a major catalyst here, as well as the continued supply of Elite bundles with Forza Motorsport 3 and Halo 3: ODST. With the Halo: Reach beta hype soaring in the second half of April, having ODST gets players into the beta starting May 3rd, so buying the bundle gets players in. Splinter Cell was also joined by a few multiplatform releases, although these tended to come out late in the month. Super Street Fighter IV, Nier, and Dead to Rights: Retribution all debuted in the last week of April, likely too late to have much influence on console sales.
The PlayStation 3 cannot shake its supply woes. Add the fact that there weren’t any exclusive software releases for the platform in April and that buzz is dying down for their lineup of great games from Q1 and it makes for another month where Microsoft has Sony’s number. On paper, Sony clearly should have been gaining traction over the first three months of 2010… but when there aren’t enough units to satisfy demand, momentum takes a hit. It makes sense to predict that April will result in just a minor downturn in sales, since demand will likely remain fairly high due to the lack of supply… but moving forward in 2010, it will be very interesting to see the direction that PlayStation 3 sales take.
PlayStation 2 and PSP sales have been boosted from their usual predictions. These two platforms have been consistently outperforming more conservative forecasts in Q1, so bumps to both numbers should put them in line with actual figures. There weren’t any significant releases for either platform, so the adjustments are based solely on recent trends.
On the software side of things, look for a strong debut from Splinter Cell: Conviction to go along with a continuation of strong sales for Pokemon SoulSilver (and HeartGold) and New Super Bros. Wii. Look for God of War III to fall from the top spot on the sales chart, although it’s possible that the game will remain in the Top 10 for a second straight month. MLB 10: The Show will likely fall from the Top 10. Keep a close eye on Final Fantasy XIII and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 to see if either multiplatform title shows legs going into their second month of release.
We’ll see how these predictions pan out when the actual numbers arrive soon. Look for a full analysis of NPD’s numbers when they become available.
Before I get to the NPD numbers for March, there are three things that I learned:
- Being bullish on Sony is a bad idea, especially when PlayStation 3 hardware shortages are acknowledged.
- Just when you think that Wii is down for the count, it always seems to come back.
- Never discount the power of bundles, such as Microsoft’s new Xbox 360 Elite bundle.
Now then… here are the numbers for March (Platform, Actual Sales, Predicted Sales, Difference):
- Nintendo DS (Actual: 708,000 Predicted: 750,000 Difference: -42,000)
- Nintendo Wii (Actual: 557,500 Predicted: 340,000 Difference: -217,000)
- Xbox 360 (Actual: 338,400 Predicted: 375,000 Difference: -36,600)
- PlayStation 3 (Actual: 313,900 Predicted: 415,000 Difference -101,100)
- PlayStation Portable [PSP] (Actual: 119,900 Predicted: 105,000 Difference: +14,900)
- PlayStation 2 (Actual: 118,300 Predicted: 95,000 Difference: +23,300)
And here are the Top 10 selling software titles for March:
- God of War III (PS3: 1,100,000 units)
- Pokemon SoulSilver (NDS: 1,020,000 units)
- Final Fantasy XIII (PS3: 828,200 units)
- Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (X360: 825,500 units)
- Pokemon HeartGold (NDS: 761,200 units)
- Final Fantasy XIII (X360: 493,900 units)
- New Super Mario Bros. Wii (WII: 457,400 units)
- Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (PS3: 451,200 units)
- Wii Fit Plus [with Balance Board] (WII: 429,600 units)
- MLB 10: The Show (PS3: 349,200 units)
Lastly, here are my observations and some of my reaction to the results.
- The Nintendo DS platform performed in line with predictions. Despite being slightly bullish in my predictions, both new Pokemon games likely helped drive sales, along with the introduction of the DSi XL later in the month. This platform will continue to move significant units for at least the next few months as news of the 3DS isn’t likely to affect current sales right away.
- The Nintendo Wii continues to surprise me. Likely propelled by continued strong sales of New Super Mario Bros. Wii and a possible soothing of recent supply shortages, the Wii has a bright 2Q ahead with Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M helping to fuel strong sales. I’m looking to be more bullish in the next 2-3 months and it will continue to challenge for the top spot in hardware sales, if not seize that position outright by May.
- The Xbox 360 success likely comes from two major sources. The introduction of the new Elite bundle (with Forza Motorsport 3 and Halo 3: ODST) is a major factor, plus strong sales of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Final Fantasy XIII likely helped. It’s possible that short supply of the PlayStation 3 drew Final Fantasy fans and interested consumers to consider the Xbox 360 since it was more readily available. This is a big victory for Microsoft, considering Sony’s big guns that arrived in March. It will be interesting to see how long this string of success for the Xbox 360 continues as they seem to have weathered the Sony storm for now.
- Although strong software sales are a good sign for Sony in March, some concern should be in the offing due to the continued weak supply of PlayStation 3 units in the retail pipeline. Sony has not been able to muster enough supply to meet the strong demand that’s been generated by its strong Q1 first-party software slate. It’s entirely possible that Sony has missed its window of opportunity to make up significant ground in the hardware sales race for the foreseeable future. Sony’s software announcements at E3 will be key in determining the potential direction of PS3 sales in the second half of 2010.
- The PlayStation 2 is still showing signs of life and the PSP is still mired in mediocrity. Although I did under-predict sales of both platforms in March, the fact that the PS2 nearly outsold the PSP adds to growing warning signs that the PSP may be in trouble without a serious reboot or price cut come E3. Stay tuned.
April may be a tough month to call. Shortages are still expected to affect PS3 supplies, and there are a mere few major software releases– most notably Splinter Cell: Conviction. All eyes will slowly begin to look forward to E3 and the possible announcements that it will bring. I’ll talk a bit about what I expect from E3 in a few weeks.
That’s it for this month. Please feel free to leave comments with your own reaction to the numbers and maybe even some predictions for what we may see moving forward. Look for my April NPD predictions in about two weeks.
After a pretty successful January call, my February predictions were a harsh wakeup call. I don’t know many people– professionals or otherwise– who predicted that the Xbox 360 would outsell the Wii. I knew that the 360 would sell pretty well, based on key multiplatform releases, but the Wii has been a sales machine for months. I also didn’t see the Nintendo DS staging the strong sales month that it had, given that notable new software releases were pretty sparse for the popular platform.
But… that’s all behind me now and we’re at the end of March, which has seen some HUGE releases. The PlayStation 3 saw the debut of MLB 10: The Show and God of War III, while the Nintendo DS saw the release of a new pair of Pokemon titles in HeartGold and SoulSilver. Just Cause 2 and Dragon Age Origins: Awakening were also released for both the PS3 and the Xbox 360. Throw in the release of the Nintendo DSi XL, and you’ve got what has been a very active month.
I believe that, between the new Pokemon games and the release of the new DSi hardware, the Nintendo DS will reign as the top-selling platform for March, holding onto the #1 spot for the second straight month. Even though Nintendo announced (yet) another portable platform for 2011, I don’t believe that the announcement was widespread enough to affect sales of the DS platform across its three different SKUs (DS Lite / DSi / DSi XL). The PlayStation 3 is both the big winner and the big loser for March; it’s likely that most of the available supply of PlayStation 3 units sold in March, given the strong software lineup and falling prices on Blu-ray discs… but with limited supplies out there, the number of potential sales is limited to at least some extent.
Without further delay, here are my calls for hardware sales in March 2010:
- Nintendo DS: 750,000 units
- Sony PlayStation 3: 415,000 units
- Microsoft Xbox 360: 375,000 units
- Nintendo Wii: 340,000 units
- Sony PSP: 105,000 units
- Sony PlayStation 2: 95,000 units
I am very confident that the DS platform will come out on top. The Pokemon IP is still a sales monster, and this will serve to enhance interest in the platform, especially with Easter right around the corner. Combine this with potential interest in the new DSi XL redesign (with bigger screens), and it’s pretty much a slam dunk for March. I thought about going with a more conservative number than 750K, but the ingredients seem to be there for a monster month. In fact, it’s possible that 750K itself could be conservative. Yikes.
Spots 2-4 on the list are more volatile. It would be so much easier to call if there were more PlayStation 3 units out there for sale than what’s been reported in many instances… but that’s not the case. Demand is obviously strong; I’ve heard of more than a few cases where incoming shipments of PlayStation 3 units have been sold within minutes. It’s unfortunate that supply constraints are happening during one of the platform’s best software release months ever. Aside from MLB 10 and God of War III, it’s still possible that residual sales of Heavy Rain are out there and MAG just received some new updates from its development team. Let’s also factor in Final Fantasy XIII; although this is a multiplatform title, the general consensus is that the PlayStation 3 version of the game is far superior to its Xbox 360 counterpart and could be considered a system-seller on its own for diehard Final Fantasy players. I do believe that over 400,000 units were in the supply channel for March, and nearly all of them sold. I edged the number a bit higher than that as I am bullish on the platform for this period.
I struggled with putting the Xbox 360 over the Wii… but a new Elite bundle, along with likely strong sales of Final Fantasy XIII, swayed me in this direction. For starters, the bundle comes packaged with two games for the same price as the Elite has been selling for: $300. Forza Motorsport 3 is definitely nice, but the big attraction is Halo 3: ODST, which boasts critical acclaim and some solid multiplayer action. The Final Fantasy factor cannot be ignored, either, especially when PS3 supplies are limited. Despite its weaker aesthetics and required disc-swapping, having Final Fantasy XIII on a widely-available platform like the Xbox 360 means that impulsive buyers won’t have to shop around or wait for a PS3. Add in other multiplatform games, a strong month of Xbox LIVE Arcade titles, and a possible continuation of the Mass Effect 2 effect… and you can see why I’ve made this call.
Putting the Wii in fourth place is a pretty foreign thing to do. The Wii has been selling so well for so long that it’s just expected that the platform will move significant numbers in spite of whatever else may be going on. The momentum around the PS3 and Xbox 360 is just too strong to ignore in this case. The PS3 has strong software and stronger demand. The Xbox 360 introduced a new bundle and has a main Final Fantasy game for the first time. The Wii has… nothing. You could argue that Red Steel 2 may have stirred some interest, but that’s about it. The Wii is also having supply problems, much like the PS3, which doesn’t help matters any. Hopefully, Nintendo can alleviate the Wii supply tightness before Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M debut in May and June, respectively; these two titles will likely catapult the Wii back to the top of the charts… but as for March, the Wii could be in relatively uncharted (and surprising) sales territory versus its competition.
The PSP and PS2 will continue to wallow in the final two spots. Sony’s strategy with the PSP is still directionless, and the PS2 is just hanging around. A price cut for the PS2 is still likely, possibly in June at E3 in order to jumpstart sales one last time. As for the PSP, it’s really hard to say what Sony’s doing to move units. They’ve splintered the userbase between traditional PSP units and the PSP Go, and new software is at a trickle and not a flow. Sure, there are some decent games for the PSP, but not enough to really make it viable or even noteworthy when compared to the DS family.
As for as software predictions, I expect strong showings from the two new Pokemon games for the DS and from both the PS3 and 360 versions of Final Fantasy XIII. New Super Mario Bros. Wii and the 360 version of Modern Warfare 2 should be carryover entries from last month.
We’ll see how these predictions hold up and analyze the actual numbers when NPD releases March data soon. In the meantime, feel free to comment with your own predictions or feel free to dispute mine. I’d love to hear from you.
Let’s get this out of the way early:
Boy, was I wrong.
The NPD figures for February were released on Thursday, and more than a few surprises were included. We saw the Wii finish below the Xbox 360. We saw Let’s Dance for the Wii outsell Dante’s Inferno, but we also saw Wii Fit and Mario Kart fall from the Top 10. It was a topsy-turvy month, so let’s try to make some sense of it.
First off, let’s take a look at hardware sales:
- Nintendo DS: 613,200
- Microsoft Xbox 360: 422,000
- Nintendo Wii: 397,900
- Sony PlayStation 3: 360,100
- Sony PSP: 133,400
- Sony PlayStation 2: 101,900
The Nintendo DS saw a substantial increase over last month’s sales numbers and despite a lack of significant new software titles for the platform. The increase is also in advance of the release of the newest installments of Pokemon– Pokemon SoulSilver and Pokemon HeartGold– which arrive later this month. The Pokemon IP is still very strong, which will likely propel the DS to repeat its first-place finish overall in March. This may also be aided by the release of yet another new DS model, called the DSi XL. It will be interesting to see how the XL’s expense ($190) and the fact that it’s the second new DS model in less than a year may affect sales, if at all. It’s likely consumers will be clamoring to find DS units for Pokemon, though… no matter which model that’s available.
The Xbox 360 is the biggest winner on this list, though. Surging ahead of the Wii is a huge feat, despite shortages of Wii hardware. There were likely a few factors contributing to Microsoft’s surprising success. The first factor is that there were notable shortages not only of Wii hardware, but also PlayStation 3 hardware. Combine that with some consumers receiving tax refunds and having a bit of extra spending money, and it made for a situation where consumers bought the console that was available. Strong performances from Bioshock 2 and Mass Effect 2 likely helped push sales for the 360 as well. The 360 version of Bioshock 2 was the top-selling software title in February, while the PlayStation 3 version didn’t crack the Top 10… and Mass Effect 2 still moved over 246,000 units in February.
While the 360 surged, the Wii stumbled. Both the 360 and the PS3 sold better last month than they did a year ago, but the Wii was down significantly as it sold over 700,000 last February and diminished by nearly 300,000 units this year. Only three Wii games made the Top 10 list, too, which may raise some red flags at Nintendo after its lengthy period of hardware and software dominance. Wii Fit and Mario Kart surprisingly disappeared from the Top 10 list, which was a bit of a surprise in its own right. We haven’t seen a notable first-party release for the Wii in some time, and that trend will continue right up until Super Mario Galaxy 2, which doesn’t arrive until late in May. One bright spot for the Wii continues to be Just Dance, a third-party Wii game that has really exceeded expectations and outsold Wii Sports Resort to raise a few more eyebrows. This kind of success for a non-Nintendo Wii game is rare, but should give publishers reason to believe that it is possible to succeed on the Wii.
The PlayStation 3 did well, despite its finish behind the Xbox 360 and Wii. Selling over 360,000 units despite a publicized shortage is a good sign, and Heavy Rain cracked the Top 10 software titles with a debut of over 219,000 units sold. The PlayStation 3 version of Dante’s Inferno sold over 242,000 units, which was good enough for 8th on the NPD list and was some 17,000 units better than its Xbox 360 counterpart. It’s possible that more PS3 units could have been sold if they were available… but the shortage comes at a very inopportune time for Sony as tax refund dollars that could have been used to buy PS3 units might well have gone to Xbox 360 units instead. March is a very important month for Sony; aside from God of War III, titles like MLB 10: The Show and the superior version of Final Fantasy XIII should tip the scales heavily in favor of the PlayStation 3. The one obstacle that could prevent Sony from having a big month would be limited supplies… and that problem could persist right through the first half of March, if not longer than that.
Here are some relevant things to look for here in March:
- What about Wii? At least until May, the Wii could be in trouble against the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Aside from hardware shortages, the Wii is also suffering from a software drought. Monster Hunter Tri is the next significant Wii title in the pipeline (arriving in April), but it’s going up against Super Street Fighter IV and Splinter Cell: Conviction for the PS3 and 360… and both of those are more popular IPs. Super Mario Galaxy 2 should help in May, but opposition from Microsoft by way of Alan Wake for the Xbox 360 will pose at least a minor threat. The big question is whether a pattern change may be going on. Now that pricing on the 360 and PS3 has come down close to where the Wii is, has the Wii lost its advantage? It should be interesting to watch the Wii’s sales trends right on through June.
- Microsoft momentum: The first two months of 2010 have been great ones for Microsoft, but March poses a potential momentum swing. What does Microsoft have that can Sony’s big guns? The answer may lie in a new bundle that’s scheduled to hit retail this weekend. The $300 Xbox 360 Elite will come packaged with Halo 3: ODST and Forza 3. Both games have garnered decent reviews, so it could be a great move. Combine that with some notable multiplatform releases (Resonance of Fate, Just Cause 2, Dragon Age Origins: Awakening), and it’s possible that Microsoft may be able to log a decent month once again.
- Sony’s month to win… or lose: Despite the Microsoft bundle, March really is Sony’s time to dominate. God of War III is the latest in a series of increasingly impressive exclusives that started with MAG in January and Heavy Rain last month. News of PlayStation Move this week may also help to stimulate interest in the console, plus the Blu-ray functionality doesn’t hurt the console’s appeal for more than just games. If Sony can move 360,000 PS3 units in a shortage, I would argue that 500,000 units or more isn’t out of the question this month, provided that Sony can get more product to retail during the second half of the month. We’ll have to see on that one.
- The race is on: The race for #1 on the NPD software list for March is wide open. Several titles will likely contend, including Final Fantasy XIII, God of War III, Pokemon SoulSilver, and Pokemon HeartGold. Appearances in the top 10 may also be possible for Dragon Age Origins: Awakening, Metro 2033, Just Cause 2, and Red Steel 2. Bioshock 2 will not repeat as #1, and that game– along with Dante’s Inferno– may possibly fall out of the top 10 altogether this month. My guess is that the two Pokemon titles will take the top two spots, followed by Final Fantasy XIII and God of War III. (Of course, given my prediction track record for February, anything is possible.)
February was certainly a bizarre month, but each of the big three hardware companies had something to be excited about when all was said and done. Nintendo saw the DS continue to move strong numbers and build the platform’s enormous userbase. Microsoft had its best February ever and outsold the Wii for the first time in 30 months. Sony saw a great burst by Heavy Rain in the sales arena, plus enjoyed relatively strong sales of the PlayStation 3 in spite of the shortage. While months like these can make analysts (or armchair analysts, like me) scratch their heads, surprises always keep everyone on their toes.
Look for March NPD calls on April 2nd, and look for more regular entries here starting next week after this past week’s personal gaming binge. Thanks to everyone for reading… since Consoleation moved here to Posterous, we’ve had over 2,000 page views in less than two months. That is awesome.
Although March has come in like a lion for many PlayStation 3 owners, thanks to the ApocaplyPS3 and its associated calendar bug, it’s also time to put some predictions on the table for what we might see from February’s numbers.
There are two observations from February which have influenced my calls:
- Wii and PS3 shortages: Significant anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that both platforms were decent demand but suffered from limited supplies. Lack of new PlayStation 3 hardware is especially significant. Despite strong sales of Heavy Rain, which is a PlayStation 3 exclusive, this supply shortfall will keep the PlayStation 3 number short of its competition for a second month in a row. Meanwhile, it’s likely that demand for New Super Mario Bros. Wii remained strong… although probably not as strong as in December and January. There weren’t any major exclusives for the Wii in February, either, so this will likely keep the Wii number at bay.
- Strong third-party releases: Bioshock 2 and Dante’s Inferno both hit early in February, and both were the third-party highlights of the month. It will also be interesting to see whether Mass Effect 2 continues to drive Xbox 360 sales and how well it sold in February after such a strong start for the last few days of January. Aliens vs. Predator, despite lukewarm reviews from the gaming press, also appears to have been a strong performer. Based on hardware availability, these releases would tend to favor Microsoft, and the predicted numbers will reflect that.
Now then, let’s get to the numbers:
- Nintendo Wii: 455,000 units
- Nintendo DS: 395,000 units
- Xbox 360: 315,000 units
- PlayStation 3: 254,000 units
- Sony PSP: 95,000 units
- PlayStation 2: 40,000 units
Overall, the trend is down from January.
The Wii will (again) win the month because of consistently strong software performers like New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Wii Fit Plus, and Mario Kart Wii. The Nintendo DS will decline slightly, despite the release of Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, as that game doesn’t have mainstream appeal strong enough to move units on its own. The wild card this month is the Xbox 360; sales could actually wind up a bit higher than my prediction due to the mix of strong third-party releases, limited PS3 supplies, and the possible continuation of the Mass Effect 2 exclusivity factor. I’m nosing the number down because we’re now completely free of the holiday effect and I see all platforms declining for the month from January’s numbers. We’ve already talked about the PS3 shortage, which explains the lower number there; the timing of the shortage is unfortunate. As for the PSP and the PS2, well, they exist. If Sony does commit to another PS2 price cut, I can see one last sales spike… but the platform, as admirably as it’s performed in its 9+ years of life, is finally being relegated to last-gen status. The PSP is more relevant, but needs more software to climb anywhere well over 100K and I didn’t see that in February.
In terms of software, I expect New Super Mario Bros. Wii to again top the list. Bioshock 2 will see a debut spot in the Top 10, as well as Dante’s Inferno, Heavy Rain, and possibly Aliens vs. Predator. Expect Mass Effect 2, Wii Fit Plus, Mario Kart Wii, and Modern Warfare 2 (360) to chart once again.
As I did with January’s NPD figures, expect a comparison and analysis of actual numbers to my predicted calls when the numbers become available later this month.