I decided to have a little bit of fun with my projections for the fourth quarter of this year.
Some colleagues have told me that my numbers are generally too high, with their projections being down as much as 50% YOY in some cases (read: Xbox 360). I’m not sure that I buy into the gloom scenario just yet. There’s talk of a decent bundle from Microsoft for the holidays, plus the company is in prime position to surprise with a price cut if it so chooses. Obviously another year like last year with over 3.8 million Xbox 360 units being sold is not in the cards… but below 2 million? With Halo 4 and Black Ops 2? I can’t pull the trigger on such low numbers. Not yet.
One thing to definitely keep an eye on will be WiiU allocations. My gut tells me that Nintendo is looking to ship between 600,000 and 700,000 units in November and in December, probably leaning towards the lower end of that range. I do think that my projection of 1.1 million units makes sense. It could be a bit more than that, but realistically not as high as the 1.5 million I was thinking about earlier this month. I do think that tight supply could potentially lead to hazardous situations at retail, with increased risk for robberies both in-store and in parking lots. Resale prices for WiiU could be huge if supply is super-tight, so they’re perfect targets for criminals.
Lastly, I know that I’ve come down hard on the PlayStation 3. It’s not that I don’t like (or want to like) the platform, because I do. I own one, I use it considerably more than my Xbox 360, and I think that PlayStation Plus is a fantastic program. Unfortunately, while I understand the pricing strategy for PlayStation 3 in Q4, I think that it’s a wasted opportunity to build penetration even at this very late stage of the console generation. $200 would have great. An even lower price would have been better. Neither of those things happened, and there simply isn’t a major selling point for the PlayStation 3 this season. The WiiU will be the main attraction as the new hardware platform and will be difficult to find. The Xbox 360 will almost certainly be the best-selling platform this season with a strong software lineup and continued brand recognition. The PlayStation 3 has neither of these advantages, and unimpressive sales will be the result instead of a resurgence during the busiest period of the year.
I hope that you’ll check out the piece. Feel free to tell me what you think, either here or via the comments section over at Popzara.
Look for more new content here next week, too.
My analysis of video game sales data and trends for August is now live over at KmartGamer.
I do have a few additional thoughts to share with you, before you head over and check it out:
Microsoft should be pleased with moving another 308,000 Xbox 360 units, especially during a pretty dry month for new game releases. As I mention in the analysis piece, Microsoft will likely interpret this as a signal that a price drop isn’t needed for at least the rest of 2011. That doesn’t mean that the company won’t be offering some interesting deals. Bundle SKUs will be common, especially in Q4, so consumers looking to get an Xbox 360 will have several value choices to make. I haven’t heard anything official about a “holiday bundle” as of yet, but I do believe that one is coming.
Although Sony was the only company to not share its unit sales for last month, I can tell you that the numbers aren’t bad at all. I think that there’s a little bit of disappointment that the PlayStation 3 was unable to pull ahead of the Xbox 360 for the month, but the PS3 was only down less than 5% YOY. In a month where everyone else was off by at least 13%, that’s a good sign. Sales of PSP units were also pretty steady, which is surprising given the lack of software. Sony’s Patrick Seybold did mention that there were some “supply constraints” (again?) for the PS3, but I doubt this played a major role in the closing data.
I know that I talk a lot about the deflation of the Wii bubble, but I do believe it has a lot to do with saturation. The LTD (Life-to-Date) number for the Wii is over 35 million units, and that’s after less than six years. I think that, if the $100 Wii shows up for November or in early 2012, there’s one more spike for console sales in the offing. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a potentially significant reason to own a Wii, and as Nintendo marks down prices on re-releases going forward as part of its Wii Selects line for $20, the Wii becomes a relatively inexpensive gaming platform with other uses (such as Netflix). I don’t know for sure if we’ll see the $100 Wii here, but it makes sense to me given that the Wii U is still at least 8-14 months away from release. It bears watching.
The lack of Madden in August had a ripple effect that cannot be understated. It precluded potential hardware sales, plus it hurt software sales for Electronic Arts and for each platform. Knowing that Madden is carrying into September, however, the news should turn positive as at least two million-plus sellers should bolster the software market and Electronic Arts should bounce back nicely after a dismal YOY month. The only concern is that putting Madden so close to big sellers like Gears of War 3 and even Dead Island and Resistance 3 can eat into potential sales even though the genres are drastically different. When I receive the numbers for September, it will be interesting to see final numbers for all of these titles as all of them should make it into the Top 10.
It makes a drastic difference to have all of the data (as I now have) to work from when performing analysis. There’s a lot to take in, and while it’s easy for people to pick on Michael Pachter, Jesse Divnich, or other analysts for having easy jobs– it’s still difficult to accurately predict where the industry is going. I now have a better picture of what’s happening and can make more informed opinions and predictions based on these numbers. I can also see why the data is so protected. Not only does it cost tons in employee hours, research, and effort to compile and produce… but making some of the data public could cause lots of conclusion-jumping. It’d be too easy to proclaim that the sky is falling and that the industry is in big trouble if you looked at August’s numbers alone; however, the best analysis is formed by gathering all of the data and looking at trends. August looks like a terrible month, but had Madden 12 hit stores even a week earlier, the damage would have been far more limited.
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.
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.
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.
Today is a work day for me, but I have a few things to touch on while I have a little bit of time:
First, NPD numbers for May have been delayed by up to three weeks. I see that a lot of you who have found my work have used NPD in your searches and may be looking for numbers and analysis; I will certainly relay the numbers and break them down shortly after they are released, but the numbers likely won’t be released until the end of this month. While this is disappointing, it’s also a bit of a relief for many members of the gaming press, as E3 is right around the corner and now the NPD numbers won’t interfere with show preparations. For now, all we can do is wait. Don’t worry– E3 will likely not disappoint anyone and should offer plenty of fodder for me to talk about going forward.
Next, although there weren’t any comments on my last entry, it seems that a lot of you read it and some of you mentioned it on Twitter over the weekend. Thank you all for sharing my work and for reading it. Indeed, working in gaming retail does offer a new perspective when talking about sales, trends, and the disconnect between the industry and its consumers. It’s one thing to just write about these trends from my personal experience and point of view. Video games and I have been intertwined for decades and I draw on a mix of observations, history, personal feelings, and other things when I sit in front of my computer and begin writing… but seeing consumers every day and noting their own trends, reactions, and buying habits adds strength to my work and fuels my writing even more. Developers and publishers can’t see what’s going on at the retail level. They just use numbers to gauge their successes and failures. Numbers are only half of the story. They don’t see that consumers are burdened by the amount of games out there and the fact that there’s just not enough money to buy everything that looks good. The industry refuses to acknowledge that game trade-ins actually drive new game sales, especially within a new game’s launch window… which makes that $60+ price tag a little easier to swallow when it’s reduced by store credit earned from trade-ins. I know that I continue to hammer on the same theme regarding this War on Used Games, but that’s exactly what this is becoming. You have the industry on one side and the consumers on the other, and if the industry thinks that eliminating used games or penalizing used consumers means victory, then they’re tragically mistaken and this industry will be doomed to failure as another passing fad, just as it was back in 1983.
In related news, trading in games has allowed me to afford one of this week’s major retail releases. Rock Band: Green Day was a no-brainer for me, in spite the non-stop cries of “Green Day sucks!” and “Music games have passed their prime!” You are free to think that Green Day “sucks”, but I’m perfectly fine with the track list and what Harmonix is bringing to the table with this game. As for the assertion that music games are dead, that may be, but I still enjoy playing them. We’ll see what Rock Band 3 brings to the table and whether Activision can find the magic again with their next Guitar Hero entry. I think that the biggest problem with music game sales had more to do with the high cost of plastic instruments, which many consumers now have already; the rumor of a new keyboard/piano controller for Rock Band 3 could mean a return to higher pricing, but we’ll have to see what SKUs that get released.
That’s about it for today. Look for impressions on Rock Band: Green Day on Wednesday, and hopefully some other entries as well. Thanks for reading and for your continued support and comments.
While May has been a busy month for me, personally… it’s been a busier month for the console gaming industry. We’ve seen several major new game releases come out, along with a new Wii console color. I’m fairly confident in saying that April’s poor numbers were more of a lapse than a trend and that May’s numbers will ease some of those analyst jitters that we saw a month ago.
Predictions for May are challenging on three fronts:
- Will the Wii’s new bundle and color scheme, along with the release of Super Mario Galaxy 2, be enough to propel the Wii past the Nintendo DS into the top spot in May?
- Did Red Dead Redemption win the shootout with Mario at the Retail Software Sales Corral?
- Will Blur or Split/Second take the checkered flag… or will both crash and burn?
While we won’t know the answers to these questions until NPD releases their results, it’s time to step up and make some predictions. First, here are my calls for hardware sales in May 2010. Keep in mind that NPD is no longer tracking PlayStation 2 sales, so the platform has been dropped from the list.
- Nintendo Wii (575,000 units)
- Nintendo DS (527,000 units)
- Xbox 360 (280,000 units)
- PlayStation 3 (228,000 units)
- Sony PSP (80,000 units)
I waffled a lot on the top two spots. Initially, I thought that the Nintendo DS would maintain its grip on the top spot, given its portability for trips, the strength of the Pokemon IP, and its strong software library. Now that I work in gaming retail (again), I can see local trends play out, and the DS did have a strong month locally. Having said that, the release of the new Black Wii– along with its new bundle including both Wii Sports titles– and the late-month push for Super Mario Galaxy 2 seem too strong to ignore. By now, I believe that Pokemon fever has subsided just enough to allow the Wii to shine through and take the top spot. The Wii did have a strong push locally during the last week of the month, which I also took into consideration. The gap between the two Nintendo platforms may be tighter than I have estimated here, but I don’t see any reason to doubt that Nintendo will dominate in hardware sales again for the month of May and leading up to E3 in mid-June.
The Xbox 360 will rebound in May after a dismal April, driven by the release of Red Dead Redemption that highlighted a fairly strong multiplatform release schedule for the month. Consumers are also tiring of waiting for PlayStation 3 units to become available as the supply shortage is now several months in duration. At the local level, 360 sales were also driven by the need for replacement due to “red ring” errors and the decision not to wait for Microsoft to replace or repair the malfunctioning units. One surprise is that Alan Wake– an Xbox 360 exclusive– is looking like a bust and likely didn’t factor much in the hardware race in May. Alan Wake has been in development for a long time and has been the recipient of positive reviews, but it’s possible that weak advertising, short game length, a tame ESRB rating, and its status as a new IP conspired to quell any major interest in the game. June is key for Microsoft and the future of of the Xbox 360 after the release of Halo: Reach in September; they need to have some quality exclusives in the pipeline and prove the worth of Natal.
The PlayStation 3 continues to be dogged by supply shortages. While it’s likely that the PS3 version of Red Dead Redemption will chart well on the software charts, it’s unlikely that the game drove hardware sales as there simply aren’t enough units to fulfill demand. Word is that shipments of systems made it to retail for the last week of the month, but even so, I just don’t see how that will be enough to make a serious difference in the overall standings. Much like Microsoft, Sony has a lot to prove at E3 in June; they need to reload and showcase some major exclusives that will re-energize sales once the supply shortages subsides… and they need to prove that PlayStation Move isn’t just a Wii knockoff. Sony may be at a slight disadvantage going in to E3 because, at this point, they don’t have the killer Q4 app that Microsoft has in Halo: Reach. I suspect there will be something major announced during the show, but I have no solid hunches as to what that software announcement will be.
As for the PSP, Sony needs a miraculous showing at E3 to save this platform from fading completely. May should be another month with less than 100,000 units sold, and while Sony can spin installed userbase numbers all it wants, the fact is that the PSP is a domestic disaster. The release of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker may be a shot in the arm for the flailing portable platform, but Sony must capitalize with a strong slate of software that is released on a more consistent basis. The quality and quantity of PSP software both need to improve in order for the PSP to remain somewhat relevant going forward. Rumors of a PSP successor being shown at E3 may be a blessing and a curse; Sony is not Nintendo when it comes to being able to get away with releasing new models of the same hardware every year… if a successor truly is coming, it needs to be priced competitively, be backwards compatible, and accept some sort of media. The PSP Go disaster could be proof that consumers are not ready to adopt a complete model of digital distribution.
Now, then… let’s turn to software.
May was a very busy month in terms of game releases. Red Dead Redemption, Alan Wake, Blur, Split/Second, Super Mario Galaxy 2, UFC Undisputed 2010, Lost Planet 2, and more all hit retail last month… and many of those were multiplatform releases, meaning that there could be two instances on the NPD software chart. I can see Red Dead Redemption charting twice in the Top 10, with the Xbox 360 version taking the top spot. Super Mario Galaxy 2 will likely be in the #2 spot, just behind. UFC Undisputed 2010 will also chart in the Top 10 at least once with the Xbox 360 version, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see the PS3 version perhaps close to the #10 spot, give or take a couple of spots. Pokemon SoulSilver and HeartGold will continue to sell well for Nintendo with at least SoulSilver charting in the Top 10. I see sales of Blur and Split/Second canceling each other out, generally speaking… although Blur could just sneak into the Top 10. Lost Planet 2 may register a Top 20 finish for at least one platform, and there may also be a Prince of Persia sighting on the Top 20 chart as well. Alan Wake may not be so lucky; I’ve heard some initial estimates that are inexcusably awful for a console exclusive that was once the toast of E3 a few years ago.
That’s it for another month. I’ll be back to break down the numbers when they are released. As always, your reaction, comments, and predictions are welcome.
It’s another work day for me today, but since I have a little bit of downtime before heading out, there are a few things that I wanted to talk about.
For starters, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the real deal. It’s a beautiful game with another brilliant soundtrack. The play controls carry over familiarity from the 2007 original while gradually implementing new tweaks, such as the return of Yoshi or some of the new suits that Mario finds. What I really enjoy about the game as a retro fan is the virtual tip of the cap to Mario games gone by; even early on, influences from Super Mario World and Super Mario 64 become apparent. I always thought that the original Super Mario Galaxy paid tribute largely to Super Mario Bros. 3, which is arguably the pinnacle of the series… but Super Mario Galaxy 2 seems to go far beyond that, and I like it more that way. The game is also considerably harder than the first. I’ve lost a good 15 lives or so over my three play sessions so far, and many of those were attributed to the Flip-Swap Galaxy. I have read some complaints about the difficulty or about the lack of originality here, but these complaints aren’t as bad as they seem. Yes, the difficulty is harder, but continued play and practice does lead to eventual success. The lack of originality is hard to fault, though; the first game was so radically different than most other Mario games before it and now this game is almost like a second serving of video dessert. This is the first game that’s been able to keep my attention on the Wii for longer than an hour at most, so that’s a good sign. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is, quite simply, an excellent game.
I’ve been spending a lot of time playing pinball. Virtual pinball, that is, by way of Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection. I now own both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game and am happy to support these kinds of games… even though I’m not holding out much hope for a new collection from Crave Entertainment anytime soon. It’s too bad, really, because this particular collection does pinball just right. The tables included in the Williams Collection are at least solid, if not stellar, examples of great pinball machines from years gone by. Gorgar was one of the first pinball machines to implement speech. Pinbot was right behind High Speed in terms of pinball popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s. No Good Gofers and Medieval Madness showcased some of the late greatness of the Williams tables. The ball physics feel great; shots realistically ricochet off of side bumpers and careen through rollovers with reckless abandon. To me, these games are symbolic because they bring back that arcade feel which has been gone for far too long. I remember days kicking around arcades in my local malls and watching somebody rack up big points playing Whirlwind or Space Shuttle; I’d sometimes get credits left to me if the played had to bail early and even remember some dominating runs where two tokens could last me an hour or more. While Crave’s earlier Pinball Hall of Fame offering– The Gottlieb Collection– had its fair share of glitches and unfamiliar tables, this collection gets just about everything right. This is, unquestionably, the best pinball video game available. If you can find it and you’ve ever enjoyed playing a pinball machine in your lifetime, this very affordable collection is worthy of a purchase– and the tables have never looked better than they do in high definition.
Speaking of arcades, Game Room support has improved and we’ve been seeing new titles weekly for the past few weeks. River Raid highlighted today’s releases, and is easily worth the $3 to own. I’m thrilled to see that new games have been arriving with regularity, even if some of the release decisions are a bit odd. Konami‘s arcade releases, for example, have been rarities and relative unknowns. Even with my vast arcade experience, titles like Strategy X and Mega Zone don’t ring any bells with me. Time Pilot did get a release, which is nice, but there are still much better– and more recognizable titles in Konami’s vast coin-op library that need to start getting some attention. What about Time Pilot ’84? Where’s Hypersports or Boot Camp? How about Double Dribble or Super Basketball? I can certainly appreciate seeing rarities and getting to play games for the first time, but this should be balanced out with more familiar titles that will get the more casual player to take an interest.
Moving on to sales talk for a bit, Red Dead Redemption continues to be a monster at retail. At least in my anecdotal experience, as soon as new copies are received, they sell within hours. The game continues to be the main topic of conversation at the store level as customers either talk about their own experiences with the game or have questions about it. While Super Mario Galaxy 2 seemed to have strong sales on launch day, interest has begun to decline already. While I believe that Galaxy 2 will have legs, it’s definitely being swallowed up by the buzz around Redemption. What interests me is how that title became the juggernaut that it’s become. Is it because of the Rockstar name? GTA associations? Is it the violence or controversial content? All of these factors may be important, but the trend lately has been word of mouth; people are interested because they heard friends talking about it or saw other people playing it. Whatever the reason, I’m sticking with my prediction that Red Dead Redemption will gun down Super Mario Galaxy 2 to be the best-selling game for May. Both the 360 and PS3 versions will find spots on the Top 10 charts, along with Pokemon SoulSilver and HeartGold, Super Mario Galaxy 2, and UFC Undisputed 2010. Blur and Split/Second are cannibalizing each other and I fear that neither game will have a great month.On the hardware side of the house, I’m not quite ready to predict numbers yet, but the order of platforms will likely remain the same: Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. I hope to put up my NPD predictions for this month sometime early next week.
Armchair analysts, heed my words: Do not forget to take into account historic sales based on the month you’re predicting.
I failed to do this when I posted my predictions a couple of weeks ago, and the numbers are… well… UGLY. Let’s get to them, then discuss each platform:
- Nintendo DS: (Actual: 440,800 Predicted: 655,000)
- Nintendo Wii: (Actual: 277,200 Predicted: 440,000)
- Xbox 360: (Actual: 185,400 Predicted: 325,000)
- PlayStation 3: (Actual: 180,800 Predicted: 310,000)
- Sony PSP: (Actual: 65,500 Predicted: 112,000)
There weren’t any NPD figures supplied for the PlayStation 2.
OK, how do we make sense of these numbers? The first thing to remember– which I never thought of– is that April tends to be a slow sales month for console gaming. It makes sense; most tax returns are already spent and the weather usually improves. Although Splinter Cell: Conviction led the software sales chart for April, it was the class of a generally weak software month all around. In fact, the only debuts on April’s chart were Conviction and the PlayStation 3 version of Super Street Fighter IV. That was it. Many new sites are highlighting the decline on sales and are painting a worse picture of the numbers than there needs to be.
Seeing the Nintendo DS in the top spot is no surprise. The platform continues to be bolstered by strong sales of Pokemon SoulSilver (#2 on the software chart) and Pokemon HeartGold (#4), plus the allure of the new DSi XL platform is still out there. The portability of the platform is a big plus, as well; being able to play pretty much wherever you want is a significant advantage to having to wait until you’re at home. Many DS games make it easy to have quick gaming sessions, such as during work/school breaks or being a passenger during travel, and the DS also has a formidable library of various titles in many genres. The DS will hold the top spot for at least another month before Nintendo officially showcases the 3DS at E3 in June and possibly takes some of the wind out of the platform’s sails.
The Wii continues to be a source of personal frustration when it comes to making predictions. When I’m bullish, sales seem to plummet… and then when I think that the platform is due for a decline, sales inexplicably bounce upwards. The degree of the decline from last month is impressive, as over 557,000 Wiis were sold in March despite having little new software in that month. April was supposed to be a little different wth the release of Monster Hunter Tri and joint advertising by Capcom and Nintendo. I expected a drop off from the lofty number posted in March, but Monster Hunter Tri never dented the Top 10 software list and was even outsold by Ubisoft’s Just Dance, which continues to baffle and impress analysts at the same time. New Super Mario Bros. Wii is still selling briskly, charting third in between both of the DS Pokemon titles, and that’s an interesting and potentially fruitful setup leading into May and the impending release of Super Mario Galaxy 2 late this month. The Wii will challenge the DS for the top spot in May, but I think that the DS will still come out just ahead.
Microsoft has little to be proud of for April when it comes to the Xbox 360. They hit their first real sales wall of 2010, and even an exclusive like Splinter Cell: Conviction was unable to ignite hardware sales. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was the only other 360 title to make the software sales chart in April, which should be disappointing for Microsoft brass. I’m a little surprised that the current Elite bundle didn’t stay hot, especially with the Halo: Reach Beta being imminent at the time and with all bundles basically guaranteeing access. Also surprising is the fact that the 360 version of Super Street Fighter IV was outsold by the PlayStation 3 version– which is not a common occurrence. May should turn more positive for Microsoft with a strong multiplatform release schedule and the launch of Alan Wake, which has been hotly anticipated and has received generally positive review scores.
The aforementioned news that the PlayStation 3 version of Super Street Fighter IV outsold the Xbox 360 version is a piece of rare good news from the Sony camp last month. God of War III stayed on the software chart for a second straight month, moving over 180,000 copies. That’s a significant drop-off from March, but staying in the middle of the chart during an off month is a good sign for the action title. Unfortunately, supply issues continue to haunt Sony when it comes to the PlayStation 3. This isn’t a situation that can be rectified quickly, but the major question is whether Sony can reignite some momentum for the platform during E3 and beyond. Buzz is high regarding PlayStation Move, and if price point projections are right, it could be a mass-market item in time for Q4… and if Sony can get through the supply shortage, the PlayStation 3 could very well be a significant player for the stretch run in 2010. As for May, though, I expect sales to rebound slightly… but to still be behind the NDS, Wii, and Xbox 360.
There’s not much that can be said about the PSP. 65,500 units is just awful for a given month. It’s a platform that, here in the United States, needs serious help. Konami and Namco are trying to help it along with new PSP games for the Metal Gear Solid and Ace Combat IPs, respectively, but the PSP seems directionless and nobody knows what Sony’s strategy is with it. With rumors intensifying of a new PSP successor to be unveiled at E3, expect PSP sales to be either flat or slightly improved for May as we wait and see what Sony has planned for the platform in June. Interestingly enough, NPD did not supply any sales numbers for the PlayStation 2, although there are rumblings out there that it actually outsold the PSP in April.
April is best known for two things: paying taxes and April Fools’ Day. Perhaps having to pay taxes instead of getting refunds may have contrubuted to the decline in sales across the board… but for analysts, the joke was on us. The industry as a whole underperformed in April and eyes are already turning to what to expect in May in order to get a sense of whether this decline is a bump in the road or a sign of trends to come as the year goes on. We’ll see how it plays out; expect my predictions for May to be up on May 31st.