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.
Some of you may view this as a cop-out, but rather than do a fairly common Game of the Year piece, I’m doing things a little differently. I’m going to run down a list of great games that I played this year. I’m not going to say that one was necessarily better than the other, but I hope this gives you some idea of the games that got me to believe that 2010 was a very good year for video game software.
Here we go:
Bayonetta (SEGA / Platinum Games for Xbox 360):
This may not be a popular pick, as the story is vapid and the characters can be interpreted by some as being offensive in their stereotypes, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t have fun playing Bayonetta this year. The game is accessible to players of all skill levels; novice players can pull off some incredible moves and combos with a little help from the AI while more seasoned players can use manual button presses and stick movement to achieve visceral grace on the screen. This is the Devil May Cry sequel that I’ve wanted since the first game, and although there isn’t a Dante sighting anywhere, the gameplay feels like the next evolutionary step in the stylish action genre. Personally, I also enjoyed the fan service paid to SEGA games from generations gone by, such as OutRun and Space Harrier. The mixture of J-Pop music and more classical choral arrangements turned some players off, but not me. You can add Bayonetta to your collection for about $20 right now, and if you missed out on it earlier this year, I do recommend at least giving it a whirl.
Major League Baseball 2K10 (2K Sports / Visual Concepts for Xbox 360):
Although it can be argued that MLB 10: The Show was still the better baseball game overall this year, MLB 2K10 gets credit for making the biggest improvements. The My Player mode was more fun (and more forgiving) than MLB 10‘s Road To The Show for creating and developing your own prospect. The presentation in MLB 2K10 was far more polished that that of its competition, including commentary that was more energetic, observant, and timely. Pertinent stat overlays and camera cuts made casual observers feel like they were watching actual televised contests. The bugs that all but ruined last year’s 2K baseball game are all but gone, and the final product feels much more polished and competitive. The game isn’t perfect, as stick-based pitching still had some issues and occasional baserunning gaffes still draw frustrated gasps… but the future for 2K’s baseball series once again looks bright and Sony will have to bring more to the table in 2011 than making casual changes if they wish to remain pennant winners with The Show. And, oh… pitchers and catchers report in just six weeks.
Pinball FX2 (Zen Studios for Xbox LIVE Arcade / Xbox 360) and Marvel Pinball (Zen Studios for PlayStation Store / PS3):
Zen Studios‘ gradual improvement in the pinball genre rapidly accelerated in 2010 with the release of Pinball FX2 for the Xbox 360. The ball physics in Pinball FX were akin to a ping-pong ball, as there didn’t seem to be much weight and the speed felt unrealistic. Combine that flaw with issues with weak early table designs, and the overall project felt like a wasted opportunity. With Pinball FX2, the table designs are much more inspired and Zen Studios has come pretty close to completely fixing the issues that I have with their ball physics engine. It doesn’t quite feel as realistic as 2009′s release of Pinball Hall of Fame, but many weaknesses are easy to overlook when you get into the spirit of social gaming. The introduction of metrics like Superscore and Wizard Score not only garner bragging rights, but also serve to quickly fill out empty Friends Lists. The more friends you have and the more tables that you play help to inflate your Wizard Score, which in turn unlocks Avatar Awards that aren’t so easy to obtain without having some skilled friends to help you out. My Friends List increased 400% thanks to Pinball FX2. Zen Studios kept the ball rolling by releasing Marvel Pinball shortly after Pinball FX2 came out. This ongoing series of tables, based in the Marvel Comics universe, introduces new challenges and ways to bolster your scoring metrics. PlayStation 3 owners got just the Marvel tables instead of the whole Pinball FX2 experience, but also got new metrics and Trophies, as well. If you’ve ever played a pinball machine and enjoyed the experience in your lifetime, you really do need to buy and support these games. You won’t be sorry.
Super Street Fighter IV (Capcom for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360):
Just about everyone knows that Street Fighter IV had some pretty major balancing issues when it came to fighters. Since Sagat has been my character of choice since Street Fighter Alpha, I lucked out with him being the tour de force that he was… but that was fixed in the discounted release of Super Street Fighter IV this year, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. New characters, new game modes, the addition (or return, if you want to be technical) of bonus stages, and much better character balance added up to the best fighting game that I’ve played in a long time. Super Street Fighter IV comes close to knocking off Street Fighter Alpha 3 as my favorite fighting game of all time, but my Glasses of Nostagia +2 keep Alpha 3 slightly ahead. Considering that the original (yet flawed) release was $60, this new and better release for $40 earns a spot on this list.
Split/Second (Disney Interactive / Blackrock Studios for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3):
Released in May of 2010, Split/Second was easy to overlook when you consider that another arcade racer (Activision‘s Blur) and one of the biggest-selling games of the year (Rockstar‘s Red Dead Redemption) were released during the same month. For those of you who glossed over it, shame on you. You missed one hell of a good time. Split/Second isn’t perfect, but it does what it sets out to do in delivering a white-knuckle experience with a lot of pyrotechnics and “Holy crap!” moments. While Blur relied more on weaponry (a la Mario Kart) and social networking to succeed, Split/Second enlisted the help of explosive-dropping tractor-trailers and missile-firing assault helicopters to go along with being able to trigger some huge, track-changing explosions and events to level the racing grid. I personally wasn’t a big fan of the vehicle handling at first, but as I played the game more and grew accustomed to how each vehicle drove and responded, I found a groove that I hadn’t found since Burnout Revenge. This one deserved a better fate on the sales charts.
X-Men Arcade (Konami for Xbox LIVE Arcade / Xbox 360 and PlayStation Store / PlayStation 3):
This isn’t a new game, but the fact that we finally got the chance to play X-Men Arcade at home for the first time ever was a big deal. The fact that you no longer have to insert buckets of tokens to hear Magneto call you an “X-Chicken” and that there are always players able to help you out online makes this $10 deal even sweeter. In addition to the domestic version of the game, players also get the slightly different Japanese version, which had power-ups which we never saw here in the States and made for a varied experience. Whether you spent tons of hours (and tokens) in arcades playing this game, or if you’re playing for the first time, X-Men Arcade is a beat-’em-up that reminds us of how things used to be. Welcome to die!
Bioshock 2 (2K Marin / Digital Extremes for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3):
I thought for a long time about whether or not to put this game on my list, as I’ve been occasionally critical of it this year… but the return trip to Rapture is one that I thought was worth taking, as long as it’s judged on its own merits instead of solely being compared to the original masterpiece. There’s a good story that’s told here about the strength of family bonds, and seeing new areas of Rapture was a treat. Although the repetitive level structure– Little Sister encounters followed by a Big Sister showdown– tended to hamper the overall experience, Bioshock 2 was one of the few games that I played from start to finish this year without allowing myself to be distracted. I actually played all the way through both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions. In addition to the main game, the release of the Minerva’s Den single-player add-on was perhaps the best DLC that I’ve ever played. It tells its own story and the twist at the end is surprising and satisfying. For a mere $20 at retail now (and $10 additional for Minerva’s Den), it’s not too much of a risk to add Bioshock 2 to your collection.
God of War III (SCEA / Santa Monica Studio for PlayStation 3):
I know that I griped recently on Twitter about how I dislike puzzles in action games, but in spite of this complaint, God of War III is amazing. Although it follows the same general MO that the previous two games in the series did (huge start, inconsistent middle, big ending), there’s little argument that seeing Kratos in his visceral glory on the PlayStation 3 was one of the software highlights of 2010. The perilous and blood-pumping ascent of Mount Olympus at the beginning merely sets the stage for the crimson-stained adventure ahead. Yes, there are puzzles to be solved, but it’s an acceptable price to pay for what is the best action game on the PlayStation 3 platform this year. Prices are going down on this game, so save a little bit of that gift card allowance from the holidays and give in to vengeance. You’ll be glad you did.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (EA / Criterion Games for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii):
The “cool” factor attached to this game cannot be ignored. Actual police officers have come into my store to buy this game… seriously. It’s not a Burnout sequel, but it’s a re-imagining of the two Hot Pursuit games with Burnout gameplay tidbits mixed in. Being the racer and avoiding the police is fun, but where Hot Pursuit really earns its stripes for me is playing as the police and shutting down racers, Chase HQ-style. Shunting law-breaking speeders and flipping them over in a display of twisted metal and shards of broken glass is a satisfying feeling that I’ve rarely had in a racing game. Adding to the fun here is the addition of the Autolog feature, which not only pits you against level objectives, but also the best efforts of your friends for bragging rights. Hot Pursuit looks great, plays well, and is very addictive. I can’t wait to see what Criterion has in the works for its next release.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Nintendo for Wii):
Yes, the Wii is getting a mention on this list… and rightfully so. Super Mario Galaxy 2 might not be as ground-breaking as its 2007 predecessor, but that doesn’t diminish its value as an excellent game. Galaxy 2 gives players more of what made the original so great with imaginative level design, fair challenge, and stellar aesthetics. The addition of Yoshi figures significantly, as do some of Mario’s new abilities, such as creating clouds for platforms. In a year where it can be argued that Nintendo took a few steps backwards (*ahem* Metroid: Other M *ahem*), Super Mario Galaxy 2 was Nintendo’s crown jewel for the Wii in 2010 and seeing the game get little recognition from many gaming sites for end-of-year honors is disappointing and shameful. If 2011 is the last full year for the Wii before its inevitable replacement, both Super Mario Galaxy games can easily be considered among the best for Nintendo’s motion-control console.
And that’s the list. No numerical order here. Sure, there were arguably other great games that didn’t make my list– like Red Dead Redemption or Mass Effect 2, for example– but that’s the advantage of having your own list. My great games likely differ at least somewhat from yours, and that is more than fine. I didn’t even have room for Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, which I also thought was great. That signifies to me that 2010 was a great year for games, even if the industry didn’t have such a great year overall. I can’t wait to see what 2011 has in store, and if I can stick true to my goals for the New Year, I will be talking even more about them.
To all of you, I wish a Happy New Year. May 2011 be our best one yet.
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.
Yes, I know they’re late– but NPD released the results of what was a busy May in terms of sales. It was a month that once again gave rise to the Old West, saw indifference with racing, and disappointed when it came to hardware sales. Let’s look at the raw data (with my original predictions in parenthesis)…
- Nintendo DS: 383,700 units (Prediction: 527,000 units; Difference: -143,300)
- Nintendo Wii: 334,800 units (Prediction: 575,000 units; Difference: -240,200)
- Xbox 360: 194,600 units (Prediction: 280,000 units; Difference: -85,400)
- PlayStation 3: 154,500 units (Prediction: 228,000 units; Difference: -73,500)
- Sony PSP: 59,400 units (Prediction: 80,000 units; Difference: -20,600)
Before I break down each of the competitors here, I wanted to comment a bit on the raw data at first glance.
Here’s a tip for all of you other armchair analysts out there: Software doesn’t necessarily move hardware, especially as time goes on in a console generation. I was bullish on the Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 because of the strong software that came out in May… but the actual numbers go to show you that, despite a strong slate of games, the hardware is still tougher to move. There are reasons for all of these systems to come in under my projections; the Wii and DS platforms already enjoy strong installed userbase numbers– and the Xbox 360 is also in the same situation, though to a lesser degree. As for the PlayStation 3, hardware was just starting to trickle back into retail channels during the later stages of May and I still believe that sales are due for a bump in June and beyond now that supply is beginning to be replenished with decent numbers.
Let’s start with Nintendo, as is almost always the case for these analysis pieces. The Nintendo DS platform ruled the roost again, though its margin of victory over the Wii was fairly narrow. Both in my retail experience and as the charts prove, the demand for Nintendo DS units is still out there. Pokemon is still the strongest IP that the DS has going for it, while titles like New Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart DS, and others have little trouble moving units on the sales floor. Demand for Pokemon is beginning to wane; HeartGold didn’t make the Top 10 in May, while SoulSilver slid down to the #9 spot on the software chart. I don’t expect the demand to completely dry up for Pokemon over the next 3-4 months, but I think that it will continue a slow but gradual slide down the charts. As for the Wii, Super Mario Galaxy 2 moved a respectable 563,900 units in May– not too bad considering that the game had only about 8 days of sales to report. As I expected, New Super Mario Bros. Wii also saw a bump in sales. I think that the problem with the Wii is that numbers appear to be hitting a bit of a ceiling. Despite strong software, many consumers already own a Wii as it approaches its fourth year of release. Even with the new color and free games thrown in, along with a major new release like Super Mario Galaxy 2, there wasn’t a blockbuster consumer response. This could bear watching heading into Q4 if the trend continues for another month or two… and I have a hunch that it will.
To me, it speaks volumes when a game that sells as much as Red Dead Redemption did (945,900 units) had almost no effect on sales of the game’s platform. You can also factor in releases like UFC 2010: Undisputed (221,100 units) and even Alan Wake (which surprisingly charted at #8 in software sales)… and hardware results are still disappointing at best. I’d be worried about sales of the Xbox 360 hardware moving forward, but Microsoft has revitalized interest– at least for now– with the launch of its slimmer and more functional hardware revision. Demand for the “new” Xbox 360 has been hot, and as Microsoft fills retail channels with units, expect to see at least a temporary spike in hardware sales… especially in Q4 to go along with Halo: Reach and Call of Duty: Black Ops. For May, though, the Xbox 360 hardware number is weak and serves as further proof that software doesn’t always fuel hardware sales.
Sony can see the light at the end of the tunnel, despite a miserable May. Both Red Dead Redemption (567,100 units) and UFC Undisputed 2010 (192,300 units) were solid software sellers, but with supply of new PlayStation 3 units still at a trickle for most of the month, there was little hope for a decent push of new hardware. At the local retail level, I have seen interest in PlayStation 3 units rising of late, although supply now seems to be outpacing demand by a bit. I expect sales of the PlayStation 3 to rise somewhat in June and I am still predicting a robust Q4 with a PlayStation Move / Gran Turismo 5 combination that should move units for the last three months of 2010. As for the PSP, sales were barely worth mentioning– again. This could change somewhat and even approach the 100K level in June thanks to Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, but if May has taught us anything, it’s the recurring theme of software not necessarily moving hardware.
As for the Top 10 software titles in May:
- Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360): 945,900 units
- Red Dead Redemption (PlayStation 3): 567,100 units
- Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Nintendo Wii): 563,900 units
- UFC 2010: Undisputed (Xbox 360): 221,100 units
- UFC 2010: Undisputed (PlayStation 3): 192,300 units
- Wii Fit Plus (Nintendo Wii)
- New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Nintendo Wii)
- Alan Wake (Xbox 360)
- Pokemon SoulSilver (Nintendo DS)
- Skate 3 (Xbox 360)
Note the absence of both racing titles released in May, which were Split/Second and Blur. I hate to say that I told you so, but… I told you so. There just wasn’t enough money left over for consumers to take chances on one or two new racing IPs, especially with only a week between the release of each. Had either Activision or Disney delayed its racer by one month, I believe that the results would have been better. Activision did send out $20 off coupons to select users for Blur in June, so you could see a bump in sales of that game… but I think that Split/Second will be forgotten and left in Blur‘s dust when all is said and done.
June will likely see the hardware malaise continuing, with minor improvement possible for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms. Aside from LEGO Harry Potter, there weren’t any real blockbuster software releases in June, either… so we could be in for seeing more of the same titles that we saw this month, highlighted by Red Dead Redemption and Super Mario Galaxy 2. Look for my June predictions by the end of the long holiday weekend.
Since time is short today, here are a few things that are on my mind today. Feel free to agree or disagree at will.
- Although I won’t be biting on Transformers: War For Cybertron, it’s looking like this game could be a bigger hit than many might have assumed. Preorders for this game at my retail store had been steadily mounting right up through launch, so I’m going to curious to see how it fares on the NPD software charts for June. LEGO Harry Potter should also chart well, though I expect neither Transformers nor Harry Potter to replicate the retail success that Red Dead Redemption has been over the last month.
- Speaking of May 2010′s best-seller, Red Dead Redemption copies are starting to get traded in more frequently. That’s not a huge surprise given the amount of time that it’s been available… but what is curious to me is that more PlayStation 3 versions of the game are getting traded in than its Xbox 360 counterpart. The trade-ins may also be somewhat surprising given that the free new co-op DLC pack launched today. The fact that it took about three weeks for the game to begin getting traded in regularly is certainly a longer-than-average waiting period.
- I have talked about this before on Twitter, but I don’t think that observers realize the schism that Microsoft has begun within its own userbase. The split started during the E3 press event when a good part of the event seemed targeted at a casual audience that doesn’t really make up a significant part of the current group of Xbox 360 owners… and then today’s damage report statements (which can be seen here on Kotaku) seem to indicate that Microsoft is aware of its failings last week but seems determined to continue forward on this path of casual attraction. If you pack in the motion control tools with your system from the jump, like Nintendo did with the Wii, you don’t split your userbase. Microsoft and Sony seem destined to divide, though it can be argued that Sony is at least trying to pitch to its core audience.
- Have I mentioned how easy it is to spend many hours with Yakuza 3 (SEGA for PlayStation 3) and not realize how much time has gone by? It’s fun to picked on and then proceed to beat the holy hell out of your antagonizers, and there are so many quests, side-quests, and things to do that you feel driven to do “just one more thing” before saving and ending your play session. I just started the campaign over on Monday (after losing my progress when I had to send my PS3 in for repair) and am back to Episode 4… but am at a point in the story when I feel more like doing other things than just progressing. Weapons training, golf tournaments, karaoke, and dating are just a few of the fun things that I’m doing when I’m not busting heads with the Dragon of Dojima. I will easily buy Yakuza 4 on its first day of release.
- I am still disappointed with the lack of consistent support for the Wii’s Virtual Console. Sure, Nintendo releases a game here and there, but we haven’t seen back-to-back weeks with Virtual Console games in some time. I do understand that Nintendo may have released just about all of its own first-party games that they want to release… but I have difficulty understanding why they can’t better negotiate with third-party publishers to keep the service well-stocked. I can think of at least a dozen more titles that we should be able to see without too much haggling on Nintendo’s end, but I am left to wonder whether Nintendo hasn’t gotten just about all of what it intended out of the service and is now content to let it be. If that’s indeed the case, it’s a damned shame. If we can’t see more retro compilations on disc, like we’ve seen from Konami, Data East, Capcom, and the company we once knew as Midway, then we should be able to get continued support for the Virtual Console. Worse yet is that I don’t believe that the service was even mentioned during E3– that’s not a good sign.
That’s all for now, and my mind is finally blank again… just in time to head back to work for a short shift. We’re still waiting on NPD numbers for May, and I know that you’re all as eager as I am to see them. Try to be patient; once they’re released, I assure you that we’ll break them down… and June’s predictions are a little over a week away.
Now that E3 has wrapped, it’s time to make some predictions for each of the three major home platforms spanning the rest of 2010. How, if at all, will E3 change the fortunes and direction for each company? Will we see changes in sales? Which games are surefire hits, and which ones could be financial misses? Let’s gaze into the Consoleation Crystal Ball and find out:
Number One with a Bullet: Nintendo Wii
Nintendo had a stellar E3 and has positioned itself to reign through the rest of 2010 and beyond. Coming off of what’s expected to be a strong May for the company (thanks to Super Mario Galaxy 2), Metroid: Other M (shipping in late August) will start a parade of strong software on the Wii platform that will move consoles. By delivering new games in familiar IPs, Nintendo is minimizing risk and maximizing potential. Kirby: Epic Yarn is a wild-card; we haven’t seen a new Kirby title in some time, and the little pink puff that could still appeals to younger and older players alike. If the platforming is as familiar as the character, this game could be huge. If not, it could mean lukewarm results from cash registers. Donkey Kong Country Returns scratches the itch of nostalgia and Retro Studios appears to have taken all of the right cues from RARE‘s previous efforts in the series. With a good marketing push and appropriate timing (leading into the holiday season), Donkey Kong Country could rule retail as it did 16 years ago. Third-party titles like Just Dance 2 from Ubisoft and NBA Jam from Electronic Arts will also fuel Wii sales in Q4.
Muscle in the Middle: Sony PlayStation 3
The shift is on. I know that I predicted this earlier in the year– and the prediction was short-circuited by supply shortages– but I do see the PlayStation 3 having a strong second half of 2010, especially in Q4, driven by Gran Turismo 5 and assisted by other strong software and PlayStation Move. As much as multimedia functionality is frowned upon by core gamers, it can be argued that Sony’s most powerful weapon is the PS3′s Blu-ray player… and as more people move to high-definition television sets and as the prices of Blu-ray discs continue to gradually decline, offering a piece of hardware that can function as an all-in-one entertainment device is key. Then you add games and gaming functionality. Gran Turismo 5 alone will sell consoles, especially since it’s going to be the first racing game with some NASCAR content since 2008. Little Big Planet 2 should get a decent marketing push and will be hailed as one of the most powerful content creators ever released– and with literally endless content, the game’s replay value could be infinite. I also see PlayStation Move doing moderately well in Q4; the price is acceptable, if not just slightly high, and the games will sell for $20 less than the standard. Some current games, like Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf 11 and Heavy Rain, will see patches that will allow for usage of Move. If Sony can maintain a balance for Move that caters to both the core and casual sides, I think it could perform well.
Last, Not Least: Microsoft Xbox 360
Let’s get a couple of obvious calls out of the way. Halo: Reach will move huge numbers, and Call of Duty: Black Ops will sell more on the Xbox 360 platform than on the PlayStation 3. You don’t have to be Michael Pachter to figure those two things out. The real question is whether the Xbox 360 can continue to outpace the PlayStation 3 over the balance of 2010– and I don’t think it can. Fable III is tough to call, and after an underwhelming showing at E3, I’m not convinced that it will be able to match the sales success of its predecessor. Aside from these three pieces of software, Microsoft of pinning its Q4 hopes on Kinect– and if the $150 price point verifies, it will stumble out of the gates in November. It’s already facing the unenviable position of being the last of the motion-control technology to arrive and could be the most expensive tech out there, plus the reviews from E3 of the technology were mixed and the games were skewed almost completely in the direction of the casual audience… which is NOT the audience that is prone to dropping a ton of money for early adoption. Even with the expected marketing blitz behind Kinect, I can’t buy a scenario where the Xbox 360 is able to keep up with Sony or come close to challenging Nintendo. I could be wrong on this, but my instincts tell me otherwise– and E3 did nothing to change that.
I expect the rest of Q3 to be pretty slow. NCAA Football 11 and Madden NFL 11 will predictably sell well, and bumps from LEGO Harry Potter and Transformers may occur, but the summer doldrums will otherwise rule for the next couple of months as we prepare for what hopefully will be an extremely busy Q4. Look for my NPD predictions for June to be posted right around July 1st, and we’ll also be breaking down May’s NPD numbers when they are released… which hopefully will be within the next week or two.
As the 2010 edition of E3 draws to a close today, I can’t help but to find myself talking about Microsoft’s misadventures once again. I didn’t know what they were going to bring to the table for the remainder of 2010, aside from Halo: Reach, but to pin future hopes on a potentially expensive peripheral that now allegedly requires users to be standing in order to use it seems to be grasping at straws and I really do believe that the company is set up for disappointment for the remainder of this year.
The big issue, of course, is Kinect. Formerly Project Natal, Kinect is Microsoft’s answer to Nintendo’s Wii and attempts to do away with tactile feedback altogether. I challenge you to count how many times during Microsoft’s press event from Monday that the phrase “no controller”– or some derivative– was uttered. I’m still trying to grasp some idea of when controllers became evil and unnecessary. Did Microsoft conduct focus groups at some point, gaining the notion that controllers are bad from the participants? Are they having trouble making controllers, or are they worried that their rechargeable battery units are finally being recognized as crap? Or… are they just so sure that the root cause of Nintendo’s runaway success during this console generation is motion control, and it therefore must be copied and (allegedly) improved upon?
Whatever the reason, Kinect is a big reason why Microsoft’s press event was a complete bust. The idea is to try and sell your audience– which is full of writers who influence buying decisions every day– on the greatness of Kinect. Instead, Kinect is the laughingstock of the industry right now. There’s evidence that the Forza Kinect demo was staged. A few of the other demos– like for Kinect Sports and Kinect Joy Ride– seemed artificial, forced, and just not believable. Kinectimals may look cute, but also appeared to be little more than a tech demo. Kudo Tsunoda came off like a more pompous Murgo the Trader from Fable II, hocking an item that may or may not work. We got demonstrations of how Kinect is a glorified remote control for your music and movies, and it’s also– get this– a webcam that can do video chat! (Amazing stuff right there.)
Kinect quite literally killed any momentum that Microsoft had tried to build early on in its press event. The rather impressive demonstration of Gears of War 3 and the announcement of timed exclusivity for Call of Duty DLC were all but forgotten as we all (attendees and viewers at home or from work) sat through well over 30 minutes of hollow demonstrations and repeated calls for the end of tactile controls. Even the announcement of the new Xbox 360 hardware was tempered by what everyone had witnessed just prior.
Then comes the “we said, they said” argument when it comes to whether you need to stand up in order to use Kinect. IGN claims in their piece that developers say that you have to stand while Microsoft representatives claim that you can sit for “some” games. It seems pretty apparent that Microsoft is in full damage control mode here when it comes to this issue, and with good reason. You don’t have to be standing up to play Wii games. You don’t have to be standing up to use the PlayStation Move wand. It’s a choice. Kinect, if the accounts are true, denies users that choice. In my case, my job requires me to stand for hours at a time; when I get home from work or on my time off, the last thing that I want to do is to stand for even more hours. Many other potential consumers are likely in similar situations. Since when did playing video games require physical exertion?
This trend of flailing around just to accomplish actions on-screen that used to be executed with the press of a button has gotten way out of hand. Yes, unique motion controls are a part of why the Wii is successful… but if you look at key first-party software for the Wii, motion controls are more subtle in many cases. “Waggle” isn’t tacked on, just because the technology is there, as it’s been for more than a few third-party Wii titles. Let’s also remember that motion controls aren’t the only reason for the Wii’s success, either; the price point has always been cheaper than its competition and the platform has always had a more diverse library of games to offer for family, friends, or solo play. Why would Wii owners want what would amount to the same kind of experience on another platform and pay for the new hardware and software when the Wii already does this? It may be easier for Sony to attract potential buyers because of its Blu-ray functionality and free online capability. Microsoft missed the boat on this, no matter how much they claim that Kinect is better technology (which is unproven). Kinect Adventures is literally an idiot simulator, where you fidget around and make silly faces for a camera– just to have the pictures shared on Facebook. Nintendo hasn’t done anything of this magnitude, and they were the first with the technology!
Kinect is going to have an uphill battle. It arrives at retail 6 weeks after PlayStation Move, its chief competition. There are few–if any– games designed for core consumers, stripping away any initiative to buy at launch. The price is still unknown, and if the rumored $150 price tag winds up being true, it will kill any possibility of early adoption by the mass market– especially considering that another big mass market title, Call of Duty: Black Ops, will be available just a week after Kinect. Most importantly, Microsoft now has to convince its userbase that Kinect is also for them, and not just potential and future consumers who want another Wii experience. With the potential exception of Harmonix‘s Dance Central, which has received mixed reactions from those at E3, there’s nothing out there that even remotely commands any attention from current Xbox 360 owners.
The only thing that Microsoft has managed to accomplish at E3 this year is to dis-Kinect themselves from their core audience by severely changing their focus to the casual side of the fence. Aside from Halo: Reach in September and Gears 3 next year, Microsoft’s future success is bound to motion controls and the hope that they can convince consumers that controllers are relics of the past.
Good luck with that, Microsoft. Good luck, indeed.
The biggest part of E3 for those of us who are not in Los Angeles at the show is over. We’ve seen the press events and heard the announcements and surprises. It’s now time to talk about the winners and losers, the surprises and the no-shows, and talk about how the balance of power may shift for the next 12 months– if at all.
If you’ve read my summaries of all three press events, you know that I gave Nintendo’s press event the highest grade. While some may argue that nothing really new came from the event, since the games are largely from existing IPs, it doesn’t really matter. The games tickled the nostalgia bones of those in attendance and at home, and it’s no secret that Nintendo did their homework and understood that E3 is not the forum to appeal to the casual set. While the event covered a few casual games, it was largely aimed at the group in attendance and the effect was unmistakable. Nobody expected a new Kid Icarus game for the 3DS. Donkey Kong Country Returns was a shocker. Nobody knew about a new Kirby title. Then you throw in the games expected for the 3DS, including IPs like Star Fox, Animal Crossing, Metal Gear, Assassin’s Creed, Street Fighter, and more? There wasn’t a better press event than Nintendo’s, and it was driven by Reggie Fils-Aime, who continues to exude confidence and charisma.
Sony’s press event had its fair share of problems, if you judge it based on the flow of the event and the prominent speaker. Jack Tretton continues to struggle with his speeches and stage presence, and this year was exceptionally bad. When Tretton is on stage, he is the face of Sony… so when he stutters, stammers, or even uses wrong game titles, it affects the credibility of the brand that he represents. The game content was occasionally all over the place, with lots of montages and constant closing branding for each video piece that Tretton repeatedly tried to talk over. Despite that, the event contained significant information. Unlike other newly announced technology, like Nintendo’s 3DS or Microsoft’s Kinect, Sony proudly gave a release date and price points to PlayStation Move. We finally saw a firm release date for Gran Turismo 5. PlayStation Plus was also priced, even if some of the other details were less than clear during the event. What was clear to me was that Sony has the games and the technology, along with strategic partnerships with third-party publishers for exclusive content… which puts them solidly ahead of Microsoft at this point in time.
Speaking of Microsoft… what the hell happened on Monday? I sure hope that there were some angry Microsoft people after the event, because it was an embarrassment. If it wasn’t for Gears of War 3 and a brief look at Metal Gear Solid: Rising– which is multiplatform and doesn’t really help or hurt MS here– the event would have been unspeakably awful. The differences between Sony’s presentation of PS Move and Microsoft’s presentation of Kinect are stark: Sony’s demos were relatively short and came across as natural while the Kinect demos felt forced and were plagued by a few problems. Aside from the arguably ineffective announcement that Call of Duty DLC was time-exclusive to the 360 starting with Black Ops, what was was there? ESPN? Fine, but that’s nothing that a PC can’t also do. Halo: Reach? Sure, it looked impressive and space combat adds a new wrinkle, but fans had already made up their minds to buy before E3. The only other impressive– though anticipated– announcement was about the new Xbox 360 hardware. It was a surprise that it was ready and shipping to stores, but the price cuts for legacy hardware weren’t announced until after the event and attendees got free hardware, which almost felt like a reward for having to sit through so much fluff.
So… how does this week change the console gaming landscape?
Nintendo should have no problem keeping their position of dominance. Despite the ever-present threat of hardware saturation, the games that were shown at the press event and will be on display this week will help to fuel both hardware and software sales for the Wii for the rest of 2010 and into next year. GoldenEye 007 has a chance to be a bigger hit than many expect, Just Dance 2 will look to capitalize on the popularity of the original, and titles like Metroid: Other M, Kirby: Epic Yarn, Epic Mickey, and Donkey Kong Country Returns all point to continued success for the Wii. The DS platform is a little less certain right now. Nintendo didn’t announce a launch date for the 3DS, so the current platforms are in a bit of limbo now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag. Dragon Quest IX and Golden Sun: Dark Dawn should help to drive sales for awhile, but all bet are off until Nintendo outs its 3DS plans.
I was pleasantly surprised by Sony. The content exclusivity announcements, acceptable PlayStation Move pricing, and news that Gran Turismo 5 will hit this year means that Sony once again has some momentum to work with. With Sony getting its supply issues under control, the missing piece of the success puzzle may be ready to be placed. Publishers seem to be exhibiting a more positive response to the PlayStation 3 platform, which makes sense given its run of momentum recently, and this can only mean good things for at least the near-term. It’s also important to note that, at least from observations, PS Move seems like the real deal. The price seems right, the technology seems fairly accurate, and many games may have it as an option– and not a necessity. That helps to alleviate any possible split in the userbase. If Sony can keep supplying systems to sell, this could be a happy holiday indeed for the company.
Microsoft won’t openly come away from E3 showing disappointment, but it should. Having already bungled an exclusive game release last month with Alan Wake, the company’s early E3 showing indicates weakness moving forward to me. Microsoft has clearly hedged its bets on Kinect. There are really two scenarios here:
- Kinect sells well and the Xbox 360 has a new lease on life.
- Kinect bombs this holiday season and Sony storms ahead of Microsoft.
The games aren’t really the issue here. We know that Halo: Reach will sell truckloads, but then what? Wait for Gears 3? The new Xbox 360 hardware may help drive sales for at least the short term as users trade in or sell older models or they replace broken equipment. The Xbox 360 platform still does have a strong library of games to choose from, and publishers aren’t exactly getting off of the Microsoft bus any time soon. The issue here is that, if E3 is any indication, there’s a significant shift going on with Sony and Microsoft alternating spots behind Nintendo… and Microsoft is as responsible for this shift as Sony is.
Like many of you, I’ll be reading impressions and viewing pictures from the show. For now, my work is done. Unless, of course, you have your own thoughts or comments on the press events. Feel free to share them!
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.