Looking at the calendar, we’re less than two weeks away from what will be one of the most important E3 events in recent memory when it comes to what I call the Hardware Trinity– that is Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. Each of the three companies have issues to address. Nintendo is facing lackluster 3DS hardware sales and the lame-duck status of the Wii until its new platform is launched. Sony has to deal with the aftereffects of one of the largest online security breaches in history and major losses in the last year. Microsoft may seem bulletproof, but the stagnant nature of the Kinect sensor and a slow trickle of software for it call into question the viability of the technology.
Here are some expectations as to what each company will deliver in their press events in order for each to bring its “A” game (in order of occurrence):
At first glance, Microsoft should be able to break out of the gate at 9am on the morning of June 6th with guns blazing. I’m fairly certain that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 will be one of the first things shown. Microsoft is going to work with Activision to push Modern Warfare 3 very hard for the next 5 months, and Activision should be more than happy to take the stage for the company that’s currently got all of the sales momentum going for it. Obviously, Gears of War 3 will play a major role in the press event as well. There will be other “core” games shown; I believe that Microsoft learned its lesson after last year’s event skewed almost exclusively away from the “core” crowd and felt eerily similar to Nintendo’s 2008 E3 presser that felt almost one-sided (Vitality Sensor, anyone?). No Halo presence at E3, despite the importance of the IP to Microsoft, doesn’t seem likely. The question is… in what form will we hear about it? New game? HD remake of the original? We will see.
The one thing that Microsoft must do is to re-ignite interest in the Kinect sensor. More games are needed– and more quality games are needed, to be more specific. Games that come off as Wii ports are not going to hold anyone’s interest, especially when you consider that the Wii is almost at the end of its lifespan. More original software, including games that are going to interest more than just the passing game player, has to not only be announced… but shown and available for demonstration. It’s true that Microsoft wisely marketed the Kinect and it sold a ton of units; however, what was the last genuine killer app for it? Dance Central is now 6 months old, as is Kinect Sports. As time marches on and new games continue to appear at a snail’s pace, the relevance of Kinect will gradually ebb. Consumer confidence and excitement in the Kinect peripheral must be restored, and quickly.
One last thing to be on the lookout for is some kind of new hardware announcement. Rumors have been flying lately, ranging from a full-on successor to the Xbox 360 to another Xbox 360 hardware revision that adds 3D support. While the exact nature of the rumors has been scattered, the theme has been the same. The other thing that has me leaning in the direction of some sort of new hardware announcement is the extremely limited attendance list for the press event. This makes me think that something big is going to go down that Monday morning, and it wouldn’t shock me at all if it was hardware-related. Stay tuned.
To say that Sony has had a rough past six weeks or so is an understatement. Granted, PlayStation 3 hardware sales for April were promising– thanks to Mortal Kombat, Portal 2, and SOCOM 4– but having no online network for nearly a month and still being without the PlayStation Store (and its associated revenue) is damaging on many levels. Sony has become an easy target for the press and has spawned doubt from its userbase. Sony is hoping that its showing at E3 will wipe the slate clean and set focus on games. There will almost certainly be a segment of the press event that serves as an apology for what happened, but will quickly move forward from that… and it’s the right move.
I’m still expecting a $50 price drop for at least the 160GB PlayStation 3 SKU. Some believe that Sony can’t afford it after recent events, but I think it’s a necessity. The PS3 platform– despite its quality software exclusives and free-to-play online service– needs a kickstart to renew consumer confidence and enthusiasm. I’m not sure that other SKUs will follow suit, but I’ve been calling for this drop over the last few months and E3 is the perfect backdrop for price cut announcements.
The press event should revolve around three main topics: PSN, PS3 software (especially exclusives), and NGP. I’m not sure of the order, but all three of these are major facets of Sony’s business plan for the rest of 2011 and beyond. Sony will rally behind the re-opening of the PlayStation Store with news of some kind of exclusives there. PlayStation 3 retail software exclusives, like Twisted Metal, Uncharted 3, Resistance 3, and others, will be talked up and demonstrated or shown. As for NGP, there are lots of variables at play. Release date, pricing, and launch software are all likely to be covered. Price is the variable that concerns me the most; if the 3DS is struggling at $250, it stands to reason that a $300 NGP will do the same in a challenging economy… even if the software lineup is good. Despite my concerns, I think that $300 to as much as $350 is where the NGP will launch. Timing is less certain to me. Will Sony have enough software in the chute to realistically launch this year? I’m not sure. My gut is leaning towards an NGP launch in 2012, but I will not be shocked if a late November/early December launch window is announced.
After the incredible runs of success that the Wii and legacy DS platforms had, saying that Nintendo is “in trouble” is a silly statement; however, Nintendo is now facing a period of uncertainty that hasn’t been seen in some time. The Wii lovefest is over, even in the face of price cuts for hardware and software. The 3DS has stumbled after a quick start. As we await the unveiling of Nintendo’s next platform, what the company announces for the next 6 months will be very important. Will more titles be added to Nintendo’s budget line of Wii software? Will Nintendo announce price drops for the DSi platforms? Where are the 3DS games that will convince consumers to part with $250, which amounts to being the most expensive Nintendo portable in the company’s history?
What Nintendo announces for specifics when it comes to its new console will be incredibly important. At this point, I am predicting that the price will be at least $300. In fact, my prediction is $349.99 for the hardware. This would be a gamble in several respects. For starters, it would be the most expensive hardware that Nintendo has ever released. It would also, despite being the newest console on the block, be the most expensive one on the market. Perhaps the power of the hardware will justify the price, but anything over $300 is unprecedented for Nintendo. As for the launch date, 2011 doesn’t seem likely at this point. March 2012 seems to be the earliest launch date for the hardware, but that’s atypical of Nintendo’s console launch strategy. Many of Nintendo’s consoles have launched either late Q3 or sometime in Q4. If Nintendo sticks to that schedule, 2012 could be far too late given that the Wii continues to sink in hardware sales with each passing month. Even a title like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword isn’t a definite system-seller for a console that’s clearly on its way out… but more on that shortly. As with the NGP, I won’t be shocked if Nintendo’s new console hits this November… but I don’t see it happening. Launch software is anyone’s guess.
While it’s certainly way too early to dismiss the 3DS platform, it’s painfully obvious that Nintendo is going to need to take a fair amount of time during its press event to show the audience that new software is coming– and soon. Yes, Ocarina of Time is coming in a few short weeks. More remakes are following, too. And then? Aside from the Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid IPs, what else do we have? A new Mario game is certainly important, and Kid Icarus will likely wow the crowd (again), but the real problem is consistency. The conveyor belt of new releases needs to be running more consistently to fire interest. I think that this will happen, but Nintendo must hammer this point home and show a stronger commitment to the platform than it has so far.
That leaves the future of the Wii, and honestly, there shouldn’t be much of an expectation. Whether it’s due to market saturation or the expiration of a fad, the Wii seems to have run its course at retail… at least in terms of hardware sales. The result of price cuts to $150 remains to be seen, but there were cuts in April and yet the Wii finished behind the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. This indicates to me that sales will continue to be flat. Wii Play Motion may sell well, but won’t move hardware. The release of Skyward Sword is still very much up in the air; in fact, I still believe that there’s a better than even chance that the game won’t make it to the Wii at all. Nintendo has promised some Wii news, and absolutely must deliver that news by way of compelling software and not trumpeting more movie-licensed games since that’s about all that can be seen on Coming Soon lists for the platform. If Nintendo isn’t launching its new console this year, the company is in danger of losing consumers to Sony or Microsoft without good reasons to buy or keep the Wii.
The E3 press events set the stage for the actual show. They’re where most of the news and announcements come from. They set the expectation level and get people and press buzzing. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo will each have a chance to bring their “A” games. The time for preparation is almost over. Starting on June 6th, we’ll all be keeping score.
Time has been gradually marching along since the news broke that I would be attending this year’s Electronics Entertainment Expo– or E3, as maost of us know it– and I thought that it’s time to start talking about some things that I’m expecting to see happen during what will be one of the most important shows in recent memory. Some of these are already confirmed, and some may be a bit more unexpected. We’ll certainly see how my predictions stack up versus reality when the show actually gets going in early June.
Here we go:
- PlayStation 3 price cut: I know that I’ve been towing the line on this cut for awhile now, and I want to reiterate that I really do see this happening during Sony’s press conference. I still believe that the price of the 160GB units will drop by $50 to $249.99 and could take effect as soon as that day. In light of recent events regarding the PlayStation Network, Sony will be making some moves to attempt to shore up its public image and win back the favor of consumers. A price cut in this situation, especially with inFamous 2 due to hit stores that same week, makes sense on many levels. I’m still uncertain about how the 320GB units will be affected– if at all– but a move with the 160GB SKU seems more than likely to me.
- New Call of Duty unveiled during Microsoft press event: Activision and Microsoft have been developing quite the comfortable relationship, and I expect that to continue to grow as Activision rolls out its new Call of Duty project during Microsoft’s press conference. Despite a concentrated effort by Electronic Arts to steal some of Call of Duty‘s thunder with Battlefield 3, this announcement will once again set fans buzzing for weeks as the hype train builds towards a likely November release. The timed DLC exclusivity deal that we saw introduced last year will play a role in the new Call of Duty game as well.
- NGP for $300/$350 in late Q4: There have been questions as to whether the NGP makes it to North America by the end of the year and about the hardware’s price point. The good news is that I do think that Sony pushes the hardware for a late 2011 release and that Sony really talks it up during its press event. Early buzz on the NGP was quite positive and Sony wants to get it into consumers’ hands sooner rather than later. The bad news is that there’s almost no way that the NGP sells for any less than $300 when it hits stores, and that price point could prove to be a problem… especially if the economy doesn’t show signs of stabilization by September/October. As more 3DS software makes its way into stores, consumers could very well go with Nintendo as the cheaper option (and Nintendo’s better track record in the portable arena). Early adoption crowd could be further limited if Nintendo’s new console sees release late Q1 2012, but that’s a low probability.
- Mass Effect 3 dated for January 2012 with multiplayer functionality: Don’t worry, Shepard fans. The delay of Mass Effect 3 into 2012 won’t be a long one. There’s precedent to make this prediction; Mass Effect 2 hit on January 26th back in 2010. A late January release provides separation from the flood of Q4 2011 titles and allows wallets to refill a bit after the holiday drain. As for the multiplayer component, Electronic Arts has made it clear that solo-only games don’t fly in their business plan. Expect some sort of multiplayer feature set, at least in terms of co-op, in Mass Effect 3… and learn to accept your new multiplayer overlords.
- New Nintendo console will be its most expensive ever: If you’re thinking about being one of the first to buy Nintendo’s new console, you had better be prepared to pay up. Expect to hear a price point of $349.99 with $59.99 software price points. As Nintendo rarely takes losses on its hardware, I just cannot see any way that Nintendo can go with a lower console price point. With development costs likely to increase as a result of the more powerful hardware, the more expensive software pricing model makes sense. As for a potential launch date, I can see Nintendo waiting until Q4 2012 in order to sell through Wii inventories and allow development time for a solid slate of launch software. There’s a small chance that the unit arrives at the tail end of Q1, but that’s needlessly risky.
You know, Sony, we’ve been close consumer friends for a long time now.
It’s been almost 16 years since I first got hooked on this PlayStation console that you started selling back on September 9th, 1995. Ridge Racer was something else, and when I heard that the best version of NBA Jam: Tournament Edition was coming on launch day, I was sold. Sure, we had a minor quibble right away when your hardware and my Zenith TV decided to disagree and cause my screen to bounce up and down… and, for the record, when I called you on launch day to see what you could do, you were clueless. That turned out to be OK since I bought my first gaming TV not long after and we were best buddies again. I must have really used my PlayStation a lot because the full-motion video would skip sometimes with repeated play. Turns out the PlayStation had this overheating problem and that turning the device on its side was a remedy. That was pretty slick. I wound up just replacing my launch unit with a new model, which was new for me since none of my previous consoles ever had a problem. I forgave you for that, too, since the software for the PlayStation was pretty damned impressive. In fact, some of the games still are… even to this day. I mean, come on! Final Fantasy VII, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Metal Gear Solid, Ace Combat 2, NHL ’98, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and dozens of other titles spent countless hours spinning in my PlayStation’s CD drive. I still have a PSone, in fact.
I did cheat on you a little bit, Sony, when Sega launched the Dreamcast in 1999. I felt bad about it, but the Dreamcast was the real deal with visuals that blew me away and with games that made me smile. The Dreamcast was enough for me to pass on the PlayStation 2 at launch. You got your revenge, though, when SEGA threw in the towel on the Dreamcast in early 2001. You accepted me with open arms when I bought my PlayStation 2 in February of 2001 and gave me goodies like Ridge Racer V, NHL 2001, and Swing Away Golf. Sure, new games took their sweet time in arriving for a few months, but when they did… WOW. Metal Gear Solid 2 was fantastic. The Burnout games were incredible. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance opened up a whole new genre for me. Unfortunately, we did quarrel again when your hardware crapped out on me again before long and my blue-backed CD-based games wouldn’t work. I eventually wound up spending money on three different PlayStation 2 units. Looking back on it now, I see that you were just preparing me for this current console generation when we’re lucky if units last for 12 months. I guess some lessons have to be learned the hard way, right? Despite our quarrels, the PlayStation 2 and I have had a great relationship. In fact, I will likely buy one more new unit before the consoles are retired. You’ll be happy to know that my PlayStation 2 game collection is near 100, Sony, and I’m proud to share that information even if the console barely has any relevance anymore.
When you announced the PlayStation 3, Sony, I was mad. It wasn’t because I didn’t like what you were offering. The technology was really cool, and this new Blu-ray technology seemed like it could take off. The problem was the price, which had extended into 3DO territory. It was ridiculous since your other consoles were half the price. I tried my best to hold out, but, as usual, you won me over and I had a PlayStation 3 in my living room by the end of 2007 along with something called Rock Band. Our friendship was quickly renewed, although it didn’t take long to sour a bit once again. Microsoft was kicking your butts pretty good with their Xbox 360, and Nintendo was killing both companies with its waggle-fest called Wii. I felt like many of the games were sub-standard ports of Xbox 360 games, and your answer to Microsoft’s Gamerscore and Achievement systems was inconsistent and lacked the sense of accomplishment that I was looking for. PlayStation Home made no sense to me at all, other than being a drain on my hard drive, and I just got bored with and disinterested in the PlayStation 3. Break-ups happen, as you well know, and I broke up with my PlayStation 3 in 2009. It wasn’t you, Sony… it was me. I became consumer friends with Microsoft, and we clicked.
You must have sensed that I’d been unhappy, because then things started to happen with the PlayStation 3 that again attracted my interest. God of War III looked amazing. Your baseball games were (and still are) second to none. Uncharted 2 was everything I wanted from a sequel. I could almost hear Kazuma Kiryu from Yakuza 3 telling me that I needed to get another PlayStation 3. You opened the original PlayStation software vault and made some excellent games available for cheap downloads. You knew just how to win me back, and you did last year. As with almost every other console that I’ve owned with your name on it, Sony, my new PlayStation 3 was flawed… but your repair team came through and fixed the unit and our relationship. You didn’t care that Microsoft and I were consumer friends, as long as you could be part of the group, too. For that, I even decided to kick you an extra $50 to be part of your special club, called PlayStation Plus, and being a member was really great.
We were good, Sony. We were good.
Then came April of 2011, and it all unraveled. Your online PlayStation Network became known as the PlayStation Notwork as “maintenance”– or DDoS attacks, as most of us call them– took the service offline. I don’t play online much, but I like leaderboards and, as you know, I like giving you money for your games and add-ons. I don’t like digital distribution, but I couldn’t deny you. You had been training me to accept it, and I begrudgingly had come to be accepting. When PSN is down, though, I can’t buy things and I can’t update leaderboards. It felt to me like you were lying, and I don’t like to be lied to. It’s a trust thing, you understand. If you promise me something, even if you don’t say so in as many words, you need to deliver it as consistently as possible. Microsoft does this, and we’re cool… so it bothered me that you couldn’t for whatever reason.
To make matters worse, some of my friends and colleagues on Twitter alerted me to an announcement that you were taking PSN offline– again, “for maintenance”– at a time when some big releases had just hit stores. You said that it would only be a day or two, but two turned into four, and four has become eight. Then you come out this week and drop the bomb: PSN got hacked, and my personal information could be compromised as a result. Somebody out there could see where I live, use my name and date of birth for identity purposes, or even possibly have my debit card information.
I know that you’re sorry, but sorry doesn’t fix this. I understand that it’s not entirely your fault, but you failed to protect the personal information that I gave you in strict confidence. I don’t see how I can trust you now with my personal information, Sony… at least for the near future. You can promise me the world, profess that the problem won’t happen again and that you’re going to do better this time, and even offer me words of sympathy and regret… but how can I honestly believe you? You were deceitful when you were DDoS attacked, you were deceitful when this security breach occurred, and then you were painfully silent for days before finally telling me what happened.
Friends don’t lie, Sony. Friends don’t leak my information to anyone unless we agree that it’s all right to do so. Friends at least offer me the chance to understand when they screw up instead of hiding in fear. I know that you’re not really my friend, Sony, but we had something good.
I hate to do this to you, but we’re taking a consumer relationship break, you and I. I’m not going to dump you again– not yet, at least– but if you’re really sorry for what happened, you’re going to have to prove it to me and then give me time to see if I can forgive you. Make me feel valued and important again. Make me feel secure that my information is going to be safeguarded better. Make me believe that you’re changing for the better. If you can do that, we’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll turn my PlayStation 3 on again and see how my online friends have done in Marvel Pinball. Maybe I’ll poke around the PlayStation Store again, although I’ll have to find one of your PSN cards if I buy anything. No offense, but you’re no longer getting my debit card information, not even out of personal convenience. That ship has sailed.
Who knows? Maybe we can work this out and become consumer friends again. I think that, deep down inside, I really want to be… but this is the way that things have to be right now. I know that this isn’t entirely your fault, and I hope that you catch the jerk who wrecked this for everyone. For now, Microsoft and I are going to hang out more. I’ll still read your e-mails and am sure that you have some exciting things still in store for E3 despite this crisis that I’m looking forward to seeing. I’m rooting for you.
In the meantime, it’s your Move, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Win me back one more time.
Although I’ll be doing a more in-depth analysis of sales numbers over at Gaming Nexus in the next day or two, I wanted to log some quick reactions to the hardware sales numbers that I’ve been seeing across the web that were released recently.
First, here are the numbers for December, as I’ve seen them:
- Nintendo DS: 2,500,000 units sold
- Nintendo Wii: 2,360,000 units sold
- Xbox 360 : 1,860,000 units sold
- PlayStation 3: 1,210,000 units sold
These results fall into line with what I expected, for the most part. Microsoft admitted that supply constraints hurt them in December, which I anticipated would happen. Nintendo managed to capitalize on this and come away 500,000 units ahead. Sony, meanwhile, managed to post a decent number of PS3 sales… but was still over a million units behind the leader.
Microsoft should be happy with its results overall. The Xbox 360 was the only console to sell more units in 2010 than in 2009, which is more impressive when you consider how much effect that lingering recessionary effects have had on the economy. It’s no secret that Kinect has been huge for Microsoft in Q4, bolstered by strong marketing and word of mouth. You have to wonder what might have been possible if Microsoft hadn’t run into supply issues in December. I still think that the Wii would have won out, but the final tally would have been a lot closer between the two. It’s clear that, although Wii still outsold the Xbox 360 overall in 2010, momentum is on Microsoft’s side heading into 2011. Without the “newness” factor for hardware like the slimmer Xbox 360 and the Kinect, Microsoft will be challenged to deliver a varied and strong software lineup to stay in the driver’s seat.
Nintendo righted the Wii ship a little with decent December in terms of sales. Comparatively speaking, however, Nintendo’s victory was hollow when you notice that Wii sales were down a whopping 38% YOY. Put that number next to a 42% increase YOY for the Xbox 360 and you can argue that Nintendo wasn’t a winner at all. What surprised me about Nintendo’s performance is that Super Mario All-Stars didn’t seem to be a factor. The best selling Wii game, which ranked 2nd overall for December, was Just Dance 2. Donkey Kong Country Returns ranked 5th, and Epic Mickey finished in a respectable 6th place, moving over 1.3 million units. January looks to be challenging for Nintendo and the Wii as there no significant software is slated for release on the platform in January. Conversely, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 each have pretty big releases this month. It’s not only possible for the Xbox 360 to pull back out in front this month, but the PlayStation 3 could surprise.
Speaking of the PlayStation 3, the good news is that over 1.2 million units were sold. The bad news is that the PlayStation 3 still finished dead last in overall sales. Gran Turismo 5 did move over 550,000 units, but that number is underwhelming when you consider the time of year that the game was released. The best thing for Sony to do now is forget about 2010 and focus on the year at hand. If all of the first-party titles on Sony’s slate for 2011 actually make their deadlines, this could be a bit of a comeback year. Killzone 3 and MLB 11 look good in Q1, and then Resistance 3 and Uncharted 3 should hit it big in Q4. I still believe that a price drop sometime in 2011 is going to be key for Sony to make any kind of competitive move against Microsoft and Nintendo… but we’ll see if that actually comes to fruition.
December was another great month for Call of Duty: Black Ops, which was the best-selling game of 2010 despite being available for only 52 days. With the first map pack due on February 1st, look for sales to stay steady or slightly increase this month– especially late. Just Dance 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood also continued to sell extremely well, and I expect that trend to continue this month, although I do expect numbers to decrease at least slightly. The software sales chart had three Wii exclusives on it, which was most likely a good reason why Nintendo wound up back on top with the Wii. I think that Just Dance 2 will keep selling well, but the longevity of Donkey Kong Country Returns and Epic Mickey is far less certain. Epic Mickey‘s strong sales bode well, I think, for January’s results as I expect one more Top 10 finish.
Look for a full-on analysis of December’s sales figures and my outlook for this month over at Gaming Nexus soon. In the meantime, feel free to react and comment below. Who do you like to be on top this month? Can Sony turn things around with Little Big Planet 2 and Mass Effect 2? Can Microsoft maintain their momentum? I’d love to hear your take.
Although we’re officially into 2011 now, it’s not quite time to turn the page when it comes to sales numbers as figures for December 2010 should be trickling out over the coming week or two. Here’s a snapshot of what I expect those numbers to indicate:
I expect strong hardware sales numbers from both Nintendo and Microsoft. Based on supply issues for the Xbox 360 in the month of December, I am calling for Nintendo to sweep the top two spots for hardware sales in December with the DS and Wii platforms, respectively. The Nintendo DS continues to sell remarkably well, given a tame slate of software and the impending release of the Nintendo 3DS platform by the end of Q1 ’11. Nintendo DS SKUs are less expensive than their console counterparts and the portability of the devices makes them hits with multiple demographics, especially pre-teen consumers. Wii sales were fueled by a one-two software punch; Just Dance 2 continued its strong sales for the holiday season and demand for the limited Super Mario All-Stars package helped to move consoles. I still believe that the Xbox 360 will wind up being the best overall sales performer for Q4 (and possibly the entire year), but the Wii should close the gap as least somewhat thanks to a strong December.
Microsoft can thank the hype machine behind the Kinect camera for causing sellouts of Xbox 360 consoles in many locations. While sellouts certainly indicate strong demand, the associated supply woes likely will relegate the Xbox 360 to third place in December. Although Microsoft certainly talked a good game by logging some huge projections for Kinect penetration, I think that the company might not have been logistically prepared for the number of consoles that have been moving in Q4. It’s interesting to note that supply replenishments did start trickling into retail channels just after December 20th, but I fear that the calvary arrived just a little too late for Microsoft to pull out a late sales victory.
Sony is expected to bring up the rear in hardware sales again with the PlayStation 3 and PSP platforms, capping a forgettable holiday hardware sales season. Gran Turismo 5 was pretty much the only draw for the PS3 for the holidays, and any hype or excitement regarding PlayStation Move was tempered by poor availability and the strong presence of Kinect. There was strong demand for standalone PlayStation Move controllers, and the item was among the hardest to find over the holiday season– and that includes Kinect and Xbox 360 250GB units– but PlayStation 3 console hardware was abundant and generally sat on store shelves. As for the PSP, the quick spike in sales in late November and into early December is expected to have tailed off as the month progressed as new software was scarce for the platform.
Here is the list of expected sales rankings for each platform in December 2010:
- Nintendo DS
- Nintendo Wii
- Xbox 360
- PlayStation 3
- Sony PSP
Expect to see Call of Duty: Black Ops dominate the software sales chart for a second straight month. In addition to strong word-of-mouth support and solid review scores, multiple retailers discounted the game by $10-$20 during the last two weeks of December which helped to move units. I also expect to see strong numbers from Madden NFL 11, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and Super Mario All-Stars. Super Mario All-Stars likely sold through over 90% of its one-time allocation to retailers in less than one month’s time, which is evidence that that consumers are not only still excited for the Mario IP– but that a budget-conscious title (4 games for $30) is a force to be reckoned with. Just Dance 2 for the Wii should continue its hot trend, but The Michael Jackson Experience may yield disappointing results as too many games seem to be crowding the Wii dance game genre. Expect a decline for Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit in December, as the title seemed to run out of gas early with consumers and retailers.
2010 Winners and Losers:
Since we’re wrapping up 2010, it’s time to look back and name a few winners and losers for the year that was.
In hardware, your big winner is Microsoft. In a year where it looked like the PlayStation 3 could catch up to the Xbox 360, Microsoft not only outdistanced its HD competition but also pulled ahead of the Wii in successive months in Q4. The new “Slim” hardware revision invigorated sales in the second half of 2010, and the release of the Kinect motion sensor in November added to the platform’s sales momentum. It will be interesting to see how close the overall hardware sales race in 2010 between the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii ends up.
Your hardware loser for 2010 is Sony. Poised to make up ground on Microsoft and coming off of building momentum from a price drop in the second half of 2009, supply woes negated a strong software lineup in Q1 and Sony was never able to recover. The release of PlayStation Move looked to stem the tide, but masterful marketing of Kinect by Microsoft and a tepid slate of Move-enabled games kept Move from really being a threat in Q4. Roles seem to have reversed as we roll into 2011, however, as it’s now Microsoft that’s dealing with some supply issues. We’ll see if this year holds a different fate for Sony.
The big software winners for 2010 are Red Dead Redemption and Call of Duty: Black Ops. Both games showcased impressive sales numbers for their respective launch windows. Red Dead Redemption might have been a slightly more impressive performer, given that May was a significant month for software releases, but both games moved millions of units and generated tons of revenue for their respective publishers.
The big software loser for 2010 is Electronic Arts. Sure, there was success in games like Madden NFL 11 and Mass Effect 2, but the cancellation of NBA Elite 11 and less-than-stellar sales of Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf 11 and NBA Jam landed a black eye on EA Sports. Sales consistency needs to be a target for ERTS in 2011, and the company has reduced the number of software titles to be released in FY ’11 to try and compensate for what was a down year overall for the software giant. Bioshock 2 is an honorable mention in this category, as retailers struggled to unload tons of unsold copies of a game that never came close to matching the success of its predecessor in terms of overall quality or consumer reaction.
Look for in-depth analysis of sales data here as it becomes available in the coming days. As always, reaction and comments are welcome.
Since NPD stopped sharing its domestic sales figures with the press (and therefore the general public), it’s very difficult to pinpoint numbers and interpret larger trends. Over at NeoGAF, fellow armchair analysts have taken the time to sift through press releases and have posted what available information that’s been released regarding November’s sales numbers. I’m going to borrow from that data to forge a bit of analysis.
Looking at hardware, the Nintendo DS looks to have finished on top, moving about 1.5 million units in November across all SKUs. This number was undoubtedly fueled at least somewhat by the release of several special edition bundles, most notably Nintendo’s limited red DSi bundle with Mario Kart DS that commemorated the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. The DS platform keeps on selling, and this is good news for Nintendo leading up to the release of the 3DS in March 2011. The Nintendo DS brand still resonates strongly with children and young adults, mainly due to its portability and its flagship IPs including Mario and Pokemon. I am expecting December sales of the platform to trend slightly downward, but still remain strong as many units will be bought as gifts through the remainder of the holiday shopping season.
The Xbox 360 platform ranked second in November sales, with a projected number of 1.37 million units sold across all SKUs. This is pretty much in line with what I expected; Microsoft has been dominant in the fourth quarter of 2010 and the Xbox 360 has performed well above sales expectations all year. It’s no secret that Kinect has been a major influence on sales in November; it was the best-selling accessory last month and demand is increasing as supplies have become limited. Supplies of the 250GB Xbox 360 “S” hardware have become seriously constrained; in fact, Microsoft has warned several retailers not to expect replenishment of this item for the rest of 2010. That leaves a window of about three weeks of tight supply, and that could bode negatively for sales of the platform in December. 4GB models are still available in most locations, but having to pay what amounts to a $30 penalty to have to buy the hardware and the 250GB hard drive a la carte is leaving a sour taste in the mouths of consumers. The one saving grace for Microsoft in this case is that hype and demand for Kinect will likely continue to drive demand for the Xbox 360 platform well into the first quarter of next year, leaving time for the re-routing of hardware to markets that need it to satisfy demand in early 2011.
Nintendo’s Wii platform came in third overall, moving about 1.27 million units. November marks the sixth straight month that the Wii has been outsold by the Xbox 360 in the United States, which is the longest such “losing” streak for Nintendo since the Wii debuted four years ago. The good news for Nintendo is that Wii sales for November were about 1% higher than last year, which is an improvement compared to the past few months when sales had been down versus the same time period a year ago. It can be argued that the numbers for November show that Nintendo is weathering the Kinect storm and managing to hold its own with a platform that’s come under serious fire from analysts of late. While the “Wii bubble” is deflating, the platform is still a sales force to be reckoned with. What’s more, the Wii had two of the ten best-selling games in November in Just Dance 2 and Donkey Kong Country Returns. There’s also a chance that the Wii could move back ahead of the Xbox 360 this month, thanks to the 360′s tight supply and Nintendo’s release of Super Mario All-Stars at a budget price. Outside of this month, however, I expect Wii sales to resume its pattern of gradual decline and I also believe that E3 in 2011 could very well unveil Nintendo’s next console. (Yes, I’m calling my shot now.)
Bringing up the rear for November sales is the PlayStation 3, which has had a fairly disappointing sales year. Only 530,000 units were reportedly sold last month, meaning that the platform was beaten soundly by its competition. That’s despite an attractive holiday bundle with two free games and another bundle with the PlayStation Move Sports Champions set. The buzz for the PlayStation 3 has been all but absent for a lot of 2010… and when it has been there (for PlayStation Move, for example), it’s been short-lived and succeeded by something else. December should be at least a little better for the PS3, given that Gran Turismo 5 will have the entire month with which it can sell units. From there, the first quarter of 2011 has the potential to be strong for Sony with Little Big Planet 2 (January) and Killzone 3 (February). We’ll see if 2011 may finally be the long-awaited “Year of the PS3″.
Turning to software, seeing Call of Duty: Black Ops at the top of the list for sales should surprise nobody. The fact that Black Ops already ranks #7 on the all-time best-selling games list after less than one month is astounding. Across all platforms, Black Ops moved 8.4 million units in November. That’s a staggering number. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood also broke the million mark in November, selling 1.14 million units to rank second. Just Dance 2 for the Wii was third, followed by Madden NFL 11 and Fable III. Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii finished just outside of the Top 5, but its sales of over 430,000 units is pretty impressive given how late in the month that the game arrived at retail. According to various reports, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit barely outsold Gran Turismo 5 as both games finished in the 7th and 8th spots, respectively. NBA 2K11 was 9th, and Wii Fit Plus rounded out the Top 10.
November was a successful month for console video game sales. Microsoft, Nintendo, Activision, and UbiSoft were the big winners, and the Xbox 360 continued its run of dominance that’s spanned a good portion of this year. Before this month’s analysis comes to a close, let’s make some hardware predictions for December:
- Nintendo DS: Although I see a slight decline from November’s numbers, I think that the DS will continue to sell based on its lower price point, wide variety of affordable software, and its continued brand strength with kids. 3DS looms in the Ides of March, but are consumers really paying attention yet? I don’t think so.
- Nintendo Wii: I’m going out on a bit of a limb here by saying that the Wii will finally leapfrog the Xbox 360 after a 6-month losing streak. My confidence is driven by two factors. First, supplies of Xbox 360 hardware– specifically the 250GB models– are extremely tight… so consumers who want to buy one can’t find them. The release of Super Mario All-Stars for $30 gives consumers a solid value and Wii availability is high. Add the continued availability of the limited edition red Wii (with New Super Mario Bros. included), and that might add up to a Wii victory.
- Xbox 360: Sales will still be strong, given that Kinect is one of the hottest items this month, but limited supply of hardware is going to hurt Microsoft here. If supply constraints somehow loosen before Christmas, Microsoft could still beat out Nintendo here– but I’m not betting on this to happen. January of 2011 could be even more interesting.
- PlayStation 3: The PS3 will finish 2010 on the same notes of disappointment and under-achievement that it began the year on. Gran Turismo 5 may help, but mediocre sales in December could translate to plentiful supplies of hardware early next year when some important and potentially big software hits retail.
That’s all for this month. I’m going to try to put together a list of predictions for 2011 soon to close out what’s been a remarkable year for the console gaming industry in many ways. In the meantime, your feedback and comments are always welcome. Feel free to chat me up on Twitter, as well.
Have a happy and safe holiday season, and thanks for reading Consoleation. Look for more consistent updates and content once the holiday shopping season ebbs and my schedule returns to normal.
Now that we’re into the key final quarter of 2010, it’s time to gaze into the Consoleation Crystal Ball and make some predictions as to how key hardware and software players will perform.
The Console Wars:
It’s become pretty evident to me that 2010 has been– and will continue to be– the year of the Xbox 360. Microsoft caught a few breaks (like the Great PlayStation 3 Shortage of 2010), but has generally made its own luck this year. Q4 will maintain that strength for Microsoft, and you need to only look at the release schedule. Halo: Reach will continue its strong sales through Q4. October brings strong multiplatform sales from NBA 2K11, Fallout: New Vegas, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, and possibly Medal of Honor… in addition to the release of Fable III late in the month. November will be about Kinect‘s debut and Call of Duty: Black Ops; even though Black Ops is a multiplatform title, it’s no secret that reservations have been strongly skewed towards the 360. I fully expect sales to continue strong in December for the 360 with residuals from the aforementioned titles. The Xbox 360 will be the best-selling system of 2010.
As for Nintendo, it’s unclear what they’re hoping for this season. For the Wii, Kirby will be a wild card this month, and Donkey Kong Country Returns will probably sell pretty well in November– although it won’t come close to what a Mario or Zelda game would have pulled in. There’s a lot of interest in Epic Mickey, and advertising is just now beginning in earnest. The future of that game’s exclusivity is in doubt, however; Disney has been developing a strong relationship with Sony behind the scenes and I can easily see a port or Director’s Cut of Epic Mickey for the PlayStation 3 next year using PlayStation Move functionality. GoldenEye 007 will end up competing with Black Ops on the Wii, and sales will likely cancel each other out. The Wii will finish 2010 behind the Xbox 360, but in front of the PlayStation 3. Uncertainty isn’t solely a Wii problem, either; now that the news about the 3DS is out of the bag, what is the future of current DS platforms? Despite the new arrival in March, I can still see strong sales for the DS platform this holiday season… especially for DS Lite units, due to their relatively inexpensive price tag and the continued strength of IPs like Pokemon and Mario. It’s clear to me that Nintendo is willing to live with a relatively average season (by their standards) in exchange for what will likely be an impressive 2011 behind the 3DS launch.
While not one Sony employee will admit this, I think that Sony is going to accept 2010 as a Microsoft year and will be gearing up for a strong 2011. With the unfortunate recent delay of Little Big Planet 2 to go along with losing SOCOM 4 to 2011 as well, Sony is left to key on PlayStation Move and Gran Turismo 5 as their big movers for Q4. While PlayStation Move is quite impressive, the games are slow to arrive and they’re still finding an identity. Some games are good (Sports Champions, The Shoot, Tumble), some are bad (Aragorn’s Quest, Kung Fu Riders), and others are just… there. It’s an adjustment period for developers and publishers as they attempt to get a feel for the new tech and how to best adapt it. Gran Turismo 5 is certainly impressive, but I think that it’s a bit too niche and many consumers who have been waiting for it for so long seem to have soured a bit on it. That’s not to say that GT5 won’t sell well– but when matched up against Black Ops, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and even another racer in Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, the potential early sales success of the game will be affected by limited spending budgets and too many choices. The PlayStation 3 will finish 2010 in third place and with an eye on better results next year.
Kinect Versus Move:
This is a pretty interesting battle for Q4. Move got out to an early start and has been available in limited supply. Reviews of the tech have been good, and I agree with those assessments. More Move titles are needed, however, to keep the interest level up… and that could be a problem for the rest of this year. There are Move games with strong sales and/or quality potential coming, such as The Shoot, Time Crisis: Razing Storm, TV Superstars, and The Fight… but will they be lost in the annual holiday software shuffle? Will people still be interested since the season’s biggest titles won’t be using the tech? Move also has to compete with the debut of Kinect, which has already exceeded preorder allocation demand with GameStop and NewEgg. It’s no secret that Microsoft is banking on a strong debut for Kinect, and strong marketing and advertising campaigns support this. It’s also a new tech for what is the hottest-selling console right now, so the assumption is that users are going to want in for the hot item this holiday season. Microsoft is having to rely on marketing and advertising, because reviews of Kinect have been quite mixed and the prevailing feeling among many existing Xbox 360 owners is that Microsoft is basically changing course away from them and towards a much more casual audience. With only 2 months, it can likely be forgiven that games for Kinect will be relatively sparse, and I think that Kinect will wind up outselling Move tech for Q4. Dance Central has been getting a lot of hype for music game fans, and the selection of family games for this holiday season may convince parents to make the investment.
Medal of Honor Versus Black Ops:
In spite of a head start of almost a month, Medal of Honor has no chance to pose even a mild threat to what will be a dominant sales performance by Call of Duty: Black Ops in November. Electronic Arts has tried to get the game noticed– there was an open beta (which was heavily flawed), there was controversy, and there’s even the allure of making the game feel and look similar to the world’s favorite FPS IP. The problem is that the Medal of Honor IP has been dormant for far too long and moving it away from its familiar theatres of World War II in order to put together a “me too” Modern Warfare game will do nothing for consumers. There is a constant thirst for FPS titles, so I think that Medal of Honor may post decent sales results for October… but, come November, Black Ops will dispatch Medal of Honor with a sales headshot. In fact, Call of Duty: Black Ops will be the biggest-selling software title of 2010. The more interesting question for Medal of Honor will be whether it sells well in October and whether it’s a decent game when all is said and done.
There will certainly be a lot to talk about in the coming weeks as we wind down 2010. We’ll see how these predictions hold up, and hopefully there will be some more free time to talk about sales trends with a bit more analysis. In the meantime, be sure to follow my Twitter feed for on-the-job retail observations and rapid-fire reactions, reviews, impressions, and more.
It has been awhile since I’ve talked about NPD numbers, hasn’t it? Well, the results for August are in, and while they seem to have shaken Michael Pachter, I’m here to tell you that there should be no surprise. Microsoft’s continued success stems from its revisions of the Xbox 360 hardware– first with the $300 250GB model and now with the 4GB $200 model. These are “new”, and combined with recent strong sellers like NCAA Football 11 and Madden NFL 11, the Xbox 360 platform has separated itself from the pack over the course of 2010 so far. What’s striking to me are two things:
- Wii sales numbers in August represent the lowest amount of systems sold since the platform’s launch in 2006. Has the bubble burst?
- PlayStation 3 numbers are lifeless and unimpressive. Still. Will this change during Q4?
We’ll get to these points, but let’s first look at the data:
- Microsoft Xbox 360: 356,700 units
- Nintendo DS: 342,700 units
- Nintendo Wii: 244,300 units
- Sony PlayStation 3: 226,000 units
- PlayStation Portable: 79,400 units
As I mentioned above, Microsoft’s success with the Xbox 360 in August is not surprising. The introduction of the $200 4GB SKU was received well, and there’s still at least moderate interest in the $300 250GB SKU. Combine that with the annual release of Madden NFL, which moved over 920,000 units, and it adds up to a monthly win. It’s also important to note that August was a pretty slow month when it came to software; aside from Madden, Mafia II was probably the only other “big” title– and it barely broke 120,000 units. September is guaranteed (and I rarely use that word here) to be another win for Microsoft with what should be an impressive debut for Halo: Reach. Reach reservation numbers are staggering… not only for the base game, but for special editions and even the Reach console. Late-month multiplatform releases like Dead Rising 2, FIFA 11, and even Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock will likely sell better on the 360, which could further tip the balance of power for September in Microsoft’s favor.
Let’s get back to the first of the two questions that I asked to start the column. Has the Wii bubble finally burst? I think that it’s certainly open to debate. Wii sales have been trending downward for a few months now and that trend will likely continue this month. Nintendo has no answer for Halo: Reach this month, nor do they have anything substantially new that can compete for consumer attention like PlayStation Move could. Instead, Nintendo is left with hoping that a price reduction for its DSi line of portable systems will bring home the bacon. With some very mixed reaction from reviewers and weak initial response from consumers, Metroid: Other M is shaping up to be a surprising letdown for Nintendo in terms of their normally successful first-party releases, and although we may see it debut on September’s NPD Top 10 software chart for September, it won’t be enough to shake the Wii doldrums. It will be interesting to watch and see if New Carnival Games will sell as well as the first game… plus we’ll have to see just how much effect that the DSi price drops will have. I can see at least a modest increase in DS hardware sales for September.
The other question that I led off with regarding the PlayStation 3 won’t be answered in September. One good sign for Sony from August is that, although hardware sales were sluggish once again, sales of Madden NFL 11 were not that far off from those of its Xbox 360 counterpart. NPD data made it unclear how close sales were between the two versions of Mafia II, although the fact that the Xbox 360 version outsold the PS3 version in spite of PS3-exclusive content at launch is a little disappointing. If the Wii is in the doldrums, then the PlayStation 3 is in a funk. The upgrade of the $300 SKU from 120GB to 160GB may generate some sales for September, but the bigger thing to watch will be the number of early adopters for PlayStation Move and how well it debuts. I’m still thinking that the Move console bundle SKU for $400 may be cost-prohibitive, especially for a new technology, but Sony has already gone on the record as saying that big things are not expected from Move sales early on. I’ve been predicting– and have been wrong so far– that Sony is going to see a positive change in momentum for the PS3 this year. I’m now ready to concede that it’s likely that any real momentum shift won’t take place until 2011. I just can’t see Gran Turismo 5, Little Big Planet 2, and PlayStation Move being able to derail the Microsoft train in Q4, despite what I’m guessing will be a tepid response to Kinect.
Here’s what I see the hardware pecking order to be for September. Keep in mind that I’m eliminating unit sales predictions and instead am just listing my early projections.
- Xbox 360: Two words. Halo. Reach. Microsoft will win September handily.
- Nintendo DS: The DSi price drops will have a positive effect, especially as school has just restarted and another Pokemon title is coming soon.
- Nintendo Wii: Aside from New Carnival Games and hopefully some late Other M purchases, September is quiet for the Big N.
- PlayStation 3: I think that PlayStation Move will start slowly, and most of the month’s multiplatform releases will be skewed towards the Xbox 360.
- Sony PSP: Could come close to 100K again thanks to the release of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep– which PSPgo units cannot play, by the way.
We’ll see how September plays out in a few weeks. In the meantime, keep checking back for more retail anecdotes and analysis here.
Also, I would like to formally announce that I’ve signed on as a staff reviewer for J2Games. The site is being relaunched in October and will be focusing on games with a classic link or retro feel. We’ll be covering current games, to be sure, but working there gives me a chance to use my years of gaming experience and cover games of all times– past and present. I have my first couple of assignments, and will certainly share the reviews with you when they are posted. I’m going to be working with some passionate people, including someone that I’ve admired for years, so I’m very excited.
Predicting sales numbers is an inexact science. Sometimes, when your calls are close, you feel like you’re making progress… but then other months stun you with results almost completely opposite of your own calls. For June, sales of hardware were up significantly over the month prior and we saw a mild upset in the rankings… despite my feeling that the increase was going to happen a month later (July). Being bearish with numbers seemed like the safe thing to do, given recent sales trends, and the penetration of new Xbox 360 hardware into retail channels was a wild card.
Let’s take a look at the raw data, first for hardware:
- Nintendo DS – 510,700 units (Prediction: 335,000 units)
- Xbox 360 - 451,700 units (Prediction: 177,000 units)
- Nintendo Wii – 422,500 units (Prediction: 320,000 units)
- PlayStation 3 - 304,800 units (Prediction: 164,000 units)
- Sony PSP - 121,000 units (Prediction: 82,000 units)
And now the software winners:
- Red Dead Redemption (X360) – 582,900 units
- Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii) – 548,400 units
- Red Dead Redemption (PS3) - 380,300 units
- New Super Mario Bros (Wii) - 200,900 units
- Just Dance (Wii) - 174,800 units
- Wii Fit Plus (Wii)
- Toy Story 3 (NDS)
- UFC 2010: Undisputed (X360)
- LEGO Harry Potter (Wii)
- UFC 2010: Undisputed (PS3)
- Pokemon SoulSilver (NDS)
- Transformers: Cybertron (X360) – 132,000 units
- New Super Mario Bros (NDS)
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (X360)
- 2010 FIFA World Cup (X360)
- 2010 FIFA World Cup (PS3)
- Mario Kart (Wii)
- Pokemon HeartGold (NDS)
- Toy Story 3 (Wii)
- Wii Sports Resort (Wii)
Nintendo continues to dominate the hardware sales charts with the Nintendo DS platform. What’s interesting is that, despite the news of the 3DS, sales increased significantly over last month. I do believe that, as I mentioned in my prediction piece, the sales rise is at least partially due to the summer’s traveling season. Having said that, a quick scan of the software chart shows continued strength for the Pokemon games and for New Super Mario Bros. for the DS while there was a strong debut for Toy Story 3 on the platform. I don’t see DS dominance slowing during the rest of Q3 at least… if not into Q4. As for the Wii, although the Xbox 360 nudged by into the #2 slot, the impressive thing here is the software story as five of the top ten games in June were on the Wii platform. While Super Mario Galaxy 2 still lags well behind the Xbox 360 version of Red Dead Redemption in overall sales, the game has still moved impressive numbers for a five-week span. Just Dance continues to impress as it outsold all new titles released in June, and that includes the Transformers and LEGO Harry Potter entries. The Wii should continue to be a strong performer through the rest of 2010, and chances are good that it will resume its #2 ranking in July as the rush to replace legacy Xbox 360 hardware with the new revision gradually ebbs.
Speaking of the Xbox 360, moving over 450,000 units is impressive and comes about a month earlier than I thought it would. I don’t think, however, that these consumers who bought systems in June are expanding Microsoft’s installed userbase. Instead, many of these people are upgrading from their old or broken hardware and hoping that problems don’t occur with this new model. Used game retailers are seeing stocks of legacy Xbox 360 hardware rising while new slim Xbox 360 units fly out the door. Of course, it doesn’t really matter to Microsoft who is buying hardware, as long as it sells… and that’s exactly what happened in June. Being less than 60,000 units off of the #1 spot is impressive, especially in a rebound month like June was for hardware. May’s shining stars for Microsoft in software continued to perform in June, with Red Dead Redemption keeping the top spot for a second straight month and UFC 2010 maintaining its position in the latter half of the Top 10. For July, look for NCAA Football 11 to take a spot in the Top 10 for the 360.
Now that PlayStation 3 hardware is readily available in retail channels, sales have responded… but Sony’s success comes at a time when Microsoft basically relaunched the 360 and when Mario is moving Wii systems all by himself. This is a month where Sony should be more pleased with increased sales than it should be disappointed that it’s again bringing up the rear with the PS3 and PSP, respectively. I see sales remaining flat or slightly dipping through August, then rising steadily from September through the rest of 2010. Buzz is starting to build for PlayStation Move and for Gran Turismo 5, which looks like Sony’s killer app for Q4. The interesting thing about the software sales chart is that it sets up more like Nintendo versus Sony and Microsoft. Aside from Transformers on the 360, all of the 360 games on the Top 20 chart are complemented by their PlayStation 3 counterparts. We should see more of this in July, as I believe that NCAA Football 11 will have at least some success on the PlayStation 3. As for the PSP, I knew that sales would rise in June– and they did– but what’s interesting to me is that Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker didn’t crack the Top 20. It’s a good thing that other territories are moving PSP units, because that’s the only reason why banner IPs like Metal Gear and Kingdom Hearts are seeing the light of day on it. I can’t help but to wonder if it would make more sense for Konami and Square-Enix to open up the potential userbase and convert these titles for play on the PlayStation 3, most likely via PSN. I fear that Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep will suffer the same fate of nonchalance that we saw for Peace Walker.
Looking at the Top 20 software titles for June, there are some conspicuous absences. Blur and Split/Second are both history within a month of their respective retail releases. Alan Wake is also gone. The PlayStation 3 version of War for Cybertron couldn’t even beat out Wii Sports Resort for the #20 spot. As I mentioned just above, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is a big disappointment with no showing on this list at all. Although Michael Pachter still believes that the sky is falling, I have a different view… and that’s coming up in the next Consoleation entry. For July’s chart, be on the lookout for NCAA Football 2010 and for the appearance of LEGO Harry Potter on other platforms than just the Wii. Expect overall software sales to be down YOY once again.
That’s it for another month. We’ll try the prediction game again right around August 1st as we once again gaze into the Consoleation Crystal Ball and see what July hath wrought. As always, your comments and questions are welcome.
Now that we’ve officially closed the book on May 2010, it’s time to take a somewhat belated gaze into the Consoleation Crystal Ball and see what June’s sales numbers will tell us. Aside from a couple of notable new games (Transformers: War for Cybertron and LEGO Harry Potter), the month was pretty quiet on the new products front. Microsoft did unveil their new Xbox 360 hardware revision, but those have been spotty in arriving in retail channels within the first month. We’re coming off another month where being overly bullish in hardware calls led to poor results, so combine that with a relatively weak software market and very little in the way of new hardware to speak of, and the numbers will look disappointing at best.
Without further delay, here are my predictions for June 2010′s hardware sales:
- Nintendo DS: 335,000 units
- Nintendo Wii: 320,000 units
- Xbox 360: 177,000 units
- PlayStation 3: 164,000 units
- Sony PSP: 82,000 units
Breaking things down by company:
Nintendo: The DS and Wii are back to 1-2 this month in my predictions after being too bullish on the Wii in May and overestimating the effect that Super Mario Galaxy 2 would have on Wii sales. I’m a bit concerned that the Wii may be sputtering just a bit; the introduction of the new Wii bundles and the launch of a AAA title in May seemed to do very little to jump-start sales. June may see some residual effects from Super Mario Galaxy 2, as it will be the first full month of release, but I don’t see that being enough of a push to drop the DS from the top spot. Speaking of the DS, it should continue its dominance as family trips and outings will promote portable gaming over at-home gaming. The DS platform has a variety of price points to choose from, including low-cost DS Lite models and higher-end DSi XL models, and I’ve seen interest in the DS continue to be strong first-hand at the retail level. I don’t see anything that will boost DS sales, but I don’t see any reason to significantly lower projections based on recent sales trends.
Microsoft: There’s certainly a lot of interest in the new Xbox 360 hardware revision, coined the “Slim”. Once these new systems get into retail channels, I can see at least a temporary spike in unit sales. This won’t happen in time for June’s numbers, no matter how many Microsoft gave away to the gaming press during E3. It’s also hard to be bullish on a platform that couldn’t move any hardware despite a software release that sold nearly a million units alone such as Red Dead Redemption. It’s possible that the price cuts that followed the unveiling of the Xbox 360 “Slim” will move a few units to bargain-hunters or to users who recently had hardware failures or “red ring” issues, but I see this bump as being minimal, at best. The good news for Microsoft is that 360 sales should begin an upward trend over the next three months starting in July.
Sony: With PlayStation 3 supply issues now apparently resolved, the problem now is that software is in a bit of a rut for the next couple of months, leading to lackluster interest. Sure, there’s a nice library of games out there covering both exclusive and multiplatform offerings, but there’s got to be something with immediate impact that convinces consumers on the fence to take that leap– and there just isn’t anything right now. As was the case with the Xbox 360, Red Dead Redemption showed that strong software sales don’t necessarily equate to strong hardware sales. Many of those who wanted the game likely already had a console to play it on. I do believe that Sony will have a strong Q4 with the PlayStation 3 platform. As for the PSP, it’s hard to do much worse than 60,000 units in a month… and I believe that Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker will add numbers in June. I still don’t see enough interest in the PSP platform domestically to make it worthwhile, but worldwide success and an apparent new commitment to PSP success seem to have Sony trying to push the ill-fated portable one more time.
Turning to software, look for repeat entries on the NPD Top 10 sales chart for Red Dead Redemption and Super Mario Galaxy 2 to go along with a strong debut for Transformers: War for Cybertron and also a potentially decent debut for LEGO Harry Potter, despite its release in the last week of the month. One interesting case to look out for is to see if Pokemon falls completely off of the Top 10 chart. It’s only been about 4 months since release… so could it be that critical mass was achieved early, followed by a rapid decline? You may also want to keep an eye out for the appearance of Blur, which may be fueled by Activision’s release of coupons worth $20 off of the game’s $60 price tag.
Hopefully, we’re back to a regular release schedule when it comes to NPD data, so when the actual numbers hit, look for a full analysis at that time. For now, please feel free to share your own predictions and observations here.