Back in 2010, when Sony announced that it was moving its PlayStation Store updates to Tuesdays from Thursdays, it seemed like a good idea. While the company claimed that the move had nothing to do with getting ahead of the Wednesday updates that the Xbox LIVE Marketplace has, beating Microsoft to the punch wasn’t a bad by-product. Getting releases before the 360 does can get impatient consumers to buy earlier on the PlayStation Store instead of waiting the 12-18 hours to get it on the 360.
Unfortunately, there’s still a very large obstacle that Sony still hasn’t managed to overcome after all this time: its inconsistency in its update time for the Store. Sometimes it’s early afternoon here on the East Coast. Sometimes it’s around dinnertime. Still other times, it’s later at night after many have retired for the evening. Compare this inconsistency to Microsoft’s clockwork in updating the Xbox LIVE Marketplace. Every Wednesday morning between 3-6am Eastern, the Marketplace updates… without fail.
It’s unacceptable. It’s also indefensible.
Add monthly PSN maintenance to the equation, including half a day’s worth on Monday 4/15 and more maintenance during Tuesday night, 4/16. Maintenance after maintenance, which then led to still more maintenance in the overnight period between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. What the heck happened to damage the network that was supposedly being serviced during most of April 15th? Worst of all, publishers missed out on a solid 8-12+ hours of sales for their digital games and add-ons because of Sony’s problems. Perhaps the update goes through overnight, but it’s more likely to be up after Microsoft has already done the same for its Marketplace. Advantage lost. Well done.
Not that Xbox LIVE is immune to downtime– the service took a digger on the 13th and was problematic for some users into the 14th, which basically killed at least half a weekend of play. However, there’s no denying that Xbox LIVE is functioning more often than PSN is. There’s no monthly scheduled maintenance to speak of, where users are required to log in beforehand or else be locked out of the service until the maintenance ends. Even as a Free XBL user, my access to leaderboards and to the Marketplace is rarely affected. Certainly not monthly or even bi-monthly, as PSN is. And, again, the Marketplace updates in the same overnight window every Wednesday. No delays. No excuses. It just happens.
With as much as people are hyping Sony for a big comeback this generation with the PlayStation 4, I sure hope that the company works out and eliminates this need for constant maintenance and figures out how to properly and consistently update its digital marketplace. It’s not 2008 anymore. It’s 2013. Somebody needs to identify what the issues are, correct them, and position the service as a value and not a technical hindrance as the new platforms step forward later this year. It can’t be that hard. Microsoft and Nintendo both update their digital marketplaces consistently and promptly. There are no valid excuses to explain why Sony cannot do the same.
As I mentioned in my last post, I recently jumped on board the iPhone train. After spending some time with it and sampling some of the many games that are available for the device, I can honestly say that my time with dedicated handhelds is probably over. Affordable games, impressive visuals and sound, and plenty of variation in genres and offerings make iOS devices compete favorably with the DS and Vita handhelds we see now.
I’m certainly not out to sway anyone from their preferences. If you bought and if you enjoy your 3DS or Vita, that’s fantastic. I’ve always said that there will be a market for them. For me, though, I was very surprised with the gaming experiences that awaited me on my iPhone 4S. Augmented reality is there. Tilt controls are there. Touch controls, while obviously not as responsive or accurate as traditional controller inputs, are acceptable as long as the game is built with touch in mind and not a port with adapted control schemes. I’ve got pinball games to hold my interest from Farsight Studios and from Zen Studios. I’ve got arcade-based games like Galaga S and Galaxian S that work surprisingly well. I’ve got a pretty neat puzzler in Castlevania Puzzle, which appeals to me as a fan of the series and adapts the idea for a touch screen instead of porting an older game with potentially rough play control. I’ve got a really cool shooter in Star Wars: Falcon Gunner that satisfies my arcade and Star Wars appetites while letting me dabble in augmented reality if I wish.
For what amounts to the price of a downloadable game on Xbox LIVE Arcade or the PlayStation Store, I have a library of seven games to play on the go… and I haven’t even taken a look at free offerings too much just yet.
I’ll admit that I’d rather play with a more traditional controller, as that’s what I’m used to. I admit that sometimes my thumbs get in the way of the action, and, on occasion, the touch screen is inconsistent with its sensitivity. It’s not a perfect experience, but when I consider everything else that I can do with this device– phone calls, text messaging, web, decent photo and video tools, productivity apps, and a lot more that I haven’t even tried yet… thinking about spending $250 on a Vita or $200 on a 3DS seems redundant. I don’t want to carry two gadgets when one fills my needs adequately or better.
I know that I’m not alone in thinking this way, either.
People are still playing video games, and will for a long time. The problem is that portable tech has caught up to dedicated handhelds in many respects, and the biggest attraction is that there’s a lot to choose from and it’s almost all significantly cheaper than what we see on the Vita and 3DS. There aren’t enough reasons for more casual players to make that second investment when they already own smartphones and tablets. Core players will still buy handhelds and will always rail on the lack of a controller, and that’s perfectly fine. For me, smartphone gaming is an imperfect but still enjoyable experience that’s less expensive, more varied, and is good enough to satisfy my gaming urges when I’m not here at home.
As an analyst, it’s been clear to see that a gradual market shift has been occurring as handheld hardware sales– despite new platforms– have been generally struggling here in 2012 while the mobile sector has been growing. Now, as a longtime video game player and with first-hand experience of what iDevices bring to the table, I can see why the shift is happening. You can complain about lack of depth, lack of a controller, the advancement of the freemium model, and more… but a growing number of people don’t care enough about any of that.
It will be very interesting to see how Sony and Nintendo deal with the challenges posed by the mobile sector as we move forward. It looks like more games will be coming for both the 3DS and the Vita later this year, which solves one problem. Now they have to get consumers to buy in… and not just the core consumer that has been on the fence, either. Trying to win back the casual consumer is important; without them, revenues will continue to slide and questions about the viability of the dedicated handheld market will continue to be asked.
Popzara Press recently published two articles of mine that I wrote in order to get the E3 ball rolling there.
The first one is from an analyst perspective, breaking down each of the three hardware companies: Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. Microsoft was the easiest of the three to talk about, though I found it interesting that early fears of a strong focus on non-game entertainment seem to have cooled with word of several big third-party game announcements during the Monday morning presser. I think that we might be surprised with what Microsoft brings to the table, but I’m not sure whether it makes a difference in terms of hardware sales for 2012 given the saturation status of the platform. Sony’s event could be the most intriguing, as there are several possible storylines. How will Sony address the Vita situation? What of this rumored cloud-based gaming acquisition that we’ve been hearing about? Is a revamp of PlayStation Plus in the cards? I’m personally very interested in what comes from that event Monday night. Finally, Nintendo’s true unveiling of the WiiU is extremely important. Nintendo needs to start selling the world on what WiiU is, and this is the company’s first big chance to do that. Launch date and pricing won’t be revealed, but games and hardware capability will be center stage.
My other piece has to do with some downloadable games that I’m looking to see on the show floor. I named three in particular. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is a personal selection. I hold this series in very high regard and am excited to see the work that Josh Tsui and his team at Robomodo have put so much effort into. I’ve been following the progress of THPSHD since it was announced last December; from what I’ve seen, this has the potential to be one of this summer’s bigger releases. Zen Pinball 2 is another game that I’m looking forward to seeing. If you know me, you know I’m a bit of a pinball freak… and it’s great that the PlayStation 3 is finally getting its own Pinball FX2 kind of upgrade from Zen Pinball. Hopefully I’ll get a peek at the new Avengers tables, too. Finally, Double Dragon: NEON is an appointment that I set up because of my arcade roots. WayForward has done some great things with arcade IP in the past (Contra 4, anyone?) and I’m eager to see what they’ve done with Double Dragon here.
I hope that you’ll take a look at both pieces, and I invite you to comment on either or both.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that most of my writing for the next couple of weeks will be for Popzara Press. I’m not sure how much extra writing time I’ll have during the event, and I’m going to be playing catch-up for another week or so after I return from Los Angeles. I will post some more personal stories and content from the trip here as time allows, though, and most definitely after my Popzara workload slows down a bit. If you’re interested in more frequent updates from me during E3, I recommend following me on Twitter. You can follow along as I’m terrified during my flight, you can find out what I’m playing and who I’ve met, and it’ll basically be a running diary of my experience.
Although the thought of flying to Los Angeles is still freaking me out, I’m extremely excited to be able to attend E3 this year. It’s going to be a big show and I am even more excited to be able to share my experience with so many people. Some call this work– and it certainly is– but I consider it an honor.
Earlier this week, I was given an opportunity to be a guest on The SideQuest, a regular podcast delivered by the great people over at SideQuesting. I’d never been a part of a podcast before, so this was a new experience for me. While I’ve been writing about video games for a long time, I haven’t talked about them at length since my time with The Game Guys– a weekly radio show about video games– back in 2000.
It was a lot of fun talking with Dali, Steve, and Mike for what wound up running over three hours. We covered a lot of ground, including some discussion about game delays, Take-Two, Grand Theft Auto V, 38 Studios, and a bit of what we expect from Sony at E3. Having an agenda made the show easy for me to follow as we recorded, and it’s great having the chance to talk with others who also so interested in the industry. I hope to do some more guest spots down the line. I do have one show appearance lined up in a few weeks with Rich Grisham, who I chatted with earlier this month about some interesting E3 and sports game topics. We’ll see whether anything develops during my E3 trip in Los Angeles.
Speaking of E3…
Thanks to Nathan and Chris at Popzara Press, my travel plans for the big show have been locked in. It’s going to be a hectic start– as I’m arriving at LAX just hours before E3 begins– but a relaxed finish as I’m going to be in Los Angeles for an extra day (I’m leaving Friday night). I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend and cover E3 for Popzara this year, as I wouldn’t have been able to afford travel and accommodations myself. I’m looking forward to what’s going to be a mixture of appointments and show floor exploration. Unlike last year, I have connecting flights and layovers this time… so my “baptism by fire” for travel will be interesting. My itinerary for E3 will be locked in next week, so I’m excited to get it and start preparing.
This will be just my fourth plane trip. I went to Florida twice in the early 1980s to visit my grandparents, and then I flew from Phoenix to Los Angeles last year for my first E3 trip. These flights are, obviously, much longer than a Connecticut to Florida trip or Phoenix to L.A. hop. I’m not exactly a fan of flying, either. If we were supposed to fly, we’d have wings. Instead, because I’m paranoid, I’ll be keeping an eye out for John Lithgow on the wing of my plane the whole time. If any of you have lots of flight experience, maybe you can tell me what to expect. That would be great.
The fact that I’ll only have a small amount of sleep before heading out to the Los Angeles Convention Center isn’t too concerning. I’m unfortunately not attending the Nintendo Press Conference (unless I get a miraculous invite in the next 10 days, anyone?), but that takes some of the pressure off for the first day if I don’t go. The Convention Center doesn’t open until noon, so I’ll have time to get acclimated before setting out. I’ve been trying to gradually set my internal clock to West Coast time, so I’ll be ready to rock for the duration of the event.
I’m really excited. A little nervous, given that this is really my first show as a media representative, but very excited. I can’t wait to share my impressions and experiences with you.
I just finished my analysis of April’s NPD sales data for Popzara Press. To go along with that piece, I have five observations that I’m going to expand upon for you here.
1. Gotta predict ‘em all!
As it turns out, I correctly predicted the ranking order for hardware sales in April: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, 3DS, Wii, then Vita. I came within about 20,000 units of predicting the actual Xbox 360 sales number of 236,000. I overshot it– as I did with the other platforms– but feel pretty good about getting more right than wrong when it comes to predicting hardware. I’ve had a decent record doing this, but predictions are only part of what I’m doing.
2. No Portal Kombat means sliding sales.
Mortal Kombat and Portal 2 combined last April to move well over 1.5 million units. Compare the significance of those two games with Kinect Star Wars, and Prototype 2. You really can’t. Even adding The Witcher 2 to the mix, these games simply don’t have the same kind of selling power as last April’s slate of game releases. Without prominent and captivating game releases, consumers aren’t going to spend money on software… or hardware, for that matter. Perhaps May will bring a better result with two releases potentially coming close to or exceeding a million units sold.
3. What’s wrong with the 3DS?
The 3DS has been a huge hit in Japan in 2012, but here in the US, it’s languishing. Sales of the handheld here in April were less than 150,000 units, which is about half of what it sold in Nintendo’s home territory. Defenders of the platform continue to fall back on the DS comparison and how 3DS is outperforming it within the first year, but most of those sales were in Q4 2011. Lack of significant new software is one possible reason for the malaise, but other factors like consumer moves to iOS/Android need to be considered. Perhaps a spike will come this month with the release of Mario Tennis Open, but Nintendo is going to have to deliver more games for the 3DS and try to encourage more output from its third-party publishing partners. Without games, there’s no reason to spend the $170 on new hardware.
4. “PS Vita is gaining momentum”? No. No, it isn’t.
It’s already difficult enough for those who don’t have access to raw NPD data to have Sony continually refuse to share sales specifics publicly, but it’s worse when Sony’s Corporate Communications arm delivers NPD reaction that uses dozens of words to say nothing at all. The quote above is pulled from Dan Race, Senior Director of Corporate Communications for SCEA. Unfortunately for Mr. Race, leaked NPD data shows that if Vita is “gaining momentum”, it’s not pertaining to unit sales. Vita unit sales tanked in April, falling below 100,000 units after spending its first two NPD reporting periods over 200,000 units. At least in terms of retail sales, software is seemingly non-existent after the initial wave of launch titles. Yes, it’s early, but very few consumers who haven’t already bought a Vita are going to drop $250+ on a device that has very little going for it at this point. Even if E3 delivers promises of new Vita games– which should happen– there’s no reason to buy near-term. There isn’t a killer app out there right now, and until one becomes more than just a “Coming Soon” placeholder, sales of Vita hardware will continue to struggle. Even a speculated price drop may not do much without games to support it. Vita needs to be Sony’s focus at E3, without question.
5. Are we saturated yet?
The Xbox recorded negative YOY hardware sales results for a fifth straight month, so it’s been argued that the hardware is approaching a saturation point. I think that there’s some merit to this argument, given that we’re going to be entering its seventh year on the market and that 2011 sales of Xbox 360 hardware were very impressive. That 2011 success is also a bit of a monkey on Microsoft’s back, since comps are hard to achieve a year later. Is it realistic to expect Xbox 360 sales to remain steady or improve this late in the console cycle? I don’t really think it is. Having said that, I do believe that the negative sales trend will continue and that I’m seeing a parallel to what we saw with the Wii. Waiting too long to act when your current console’s sales begin to fall can be costly. Even with a recommended price drop, I don’t see sales reacting positively for very long. Even when Halo 4 hits in November, can we expect another 1.7 million Xbox 360 units to sell? I’ll answer that question very plainly: No.
Hopefully things will improve this month. Diablo III and Max Payne 3 show promise. Will they be enough to break this losing streak? We’ll find out in a few weeks’ time.
E3 is getting close, and GameTrailers has posted a Bonus Round talking about what to expect from Microsoft at the event. During the video, Michael Pachter says something very interesting:
They (Microsoft) told me don’t expect a lot of game stuff, expect a lot of dashboard, interface, multimedia.
There has been some pretty negative reaction about the possibility that games will be taking a back seat to other content during E3, but nobody should be surprised. It’s a natural progression for Microsoft, especially given current trends. Video games are now but a piece of the overall puzzle for Microsoft, and the company must find other ways to get more consumers interested in the Xbox brand. Streaming media is huge right now with consumers. Music, movies, television shows, sports, and other content are all streamed into homes across the nation and around the world, and positioning Xbox hardware as a central hub for this content is a wise move. The annual $60 subscription fee that consumers pay for access to these services makes some money for Microsoft on a regular basis.
As console video games continue their sales decline, Microsoft needs to figure out ways to attract consumers that want more than a “game machine”. Securing content partners and making announcements at E3 makes sense as it provides non-gamers with more reasons to consider purchasing an Xbox device if they don’t have one already. Perhaps having the hardware will entice consumers to buy a few games along the way– either on disc or digitally– and help to ease them into gaming or to even welcome them back if they’d become otherwise disinterested. The challenge is selling the hardware to those who may not necessarily want it.
We’ve seen this before.
Sony marketed the PlayStation outside of the core gaming consumer base, trying to appeal to an older audience. The strategy worked, as over 100 million units were shipped worldwide between 1995 and 2005 and PlayStation became a respected brand name. Expanding your consumer base is key to making more money. It’s fair to say that core gaming consumers will buy hardware if the software is worthwhile, comprised of returning favorites and new IPs… but more casual consumers who only have a passing or mild interest in games need something else. We saw this during the last console generation with the ability to play DVD movies on the PlayStation 2 and the original Xbox. Casual consumers could buy consoles as DVD players that could also play games, making them multipurpose devices. Here in the United States alone, more than 46 million PlayStation 2 units have sold at retail, making it one of the most successful platforms of all time.
Console video games have had their rise, and are now seeing a gradual decline. That doesn’t mean that Microsoft should abandon ship. It simply means that altered strategy is warranted to maintain strong sales of its hardware. Physical media playback isn’t a feature in demand as it used to be, so touting streaming media becomes a key feature to attract buyers– and to assuage retailers who fear that video games are on the way out. Sure, Xbox hardware can play games if consumers want it to… but it can also be a one-stop source for Netflix streaming, ESPN sports on demand, YouTube, music videos, and a lot more. It becomes less of a game console and more of an entertainment device.
Entertainment Evolved. It’s not just the title of Microsoft’s E3 press conference… it’s the company’s strategy moving forward. We had better start getting used to it.
When I had a chance to spend some time with the PlayStation Vita at E3 back in June, I was impressed. Uncharted looked and felt remarkably like its PlayStation 3 counterparts and the idea of optional touch controls for platforming plus a neat motion mechanic for the sniper rifle mode raised my excitement level.
As time has gone on and more details have come into focus regarding the Vita, that excitement level has gradually been tempered. Some games will require memory cards. PSone games won’t work at launch. The battery life is suspect. Now, word of memory card pricing is enough to make me consider waiting it out as a consumer as prices range from $30 for the smallest (4GB) card up to $120 for the 32GB card. That makes the minimum Vita purchase at least $320 if you want a game to play on it. That’s $110 more than a comparable purchase for the Nintendo 3DS.
I know that I’ve been critical of the 3DS in the past, as have other analysts, but sales are picking up steam here in Q4 and it’s going to look a lot more attractive next to a $250 platform with a not-so-hidden extra expense in the memory card. Even when the 3DS was $250, Nintendo included a 2GB SD card for free. People who want a Vita memory card as part of a bundle can attempt to score one of the early release packages– but that’s $350 and comes with a game that’s not exactly on anyone’s radar. Otherwise? $280 for hardware and memory card with no game.
Not only does Sony have the 3DS to worry about… but it’s also dealing with the effects of booming popularity for smartphones and tablets. The casual consumer market, which has been instrumental in growing the popularity of video games over the last 15 years, is showing less interest in dedicated portable platforms. iPhone and iPod Touch apps and games are significantly cheaper than offerings for the Vita and 3DS. It’s true that a tactile controller is missing from these devices, but the games seem to be more than good enough for most of the casual crowd. Expensive games and accessories, combined with the high cost of the hardware, don’t bode well for expansion of the potential consumer base for the Vita. In fact, Sony may be in a position where it has to count on its loyal fanbase to buy into the Vita and accept that limited success may be as far as the platform goes– at least initially.
I understand that the Vita is more powerful than the 3DS. Expecting it to sell at or near the 3DS price point is too much to ask. I don’t understand the concept of games requiring memory cards to play, especially since the game media is supposed to allow for reading and writing of data. Worse, I don’t understand making a required accessory optional at the $250 price point. Include a 2GB card like Nintendo does with the 3DS, and the argument about memory card pricing doesn’t affect sales. Since a memory card is required for the platform’s big launch games, setting the expectation that Vita will “only” cost $250 is disingenuous.
As much as I hope that I’m proven to be wrong, I see struggles for the Vita in 2012 after an initially strong launch. It’s too bad. There’s a lot of potential and it’s obvious that the Vita is a powerful device, but it’s going to be too expensive for too many. As a consumer myself, my outlook on Vita has been downgraded from “buy” to “wait and see”.
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.
My latest Armchair Analysis piece has been posted at KmartGamer, as I react to Sony‘s move to drop the price of the PlayStation 3 this week. I hope that you’ll give it a read and see what you think, as there are some good and not-so-good ramifications from the decision… which is long-overdue and one that I’d predicted would happen a couple of months ago.
So… my timing is a little late, but I was dead-on with the drop amount. I’ll take batting .500, thanks.
Consumer response to the cut has been favorable so far. IndustryGamers is reporting that Amazon has shown a significant increase in PS3 unit sales, which is a natural occurrence for price drops. August’s NPD report will show improvements for the PS3, which should break the 200,000 mark and has an outside shot at overtaking Xbox 360 unit sales for the month. It’s not a definite, but it’s not impossible, either. What remains to be seen is whether the trend will be sustained through Q4. Multiplatform games seem to go hand-in-hand with Xbox 360 sales, and Gears of War 3 will stem any potential sustained run at the top of the NPD charts by the PS3 in September.
Thanks for following my work on KmartGamer and here at Consoleation. Look for more League of One content on KmartGamer soon, plus some more insights on games gone by for the PSone and PS2 here on my home blog. It’s a really exciting time in my writing tenure, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that more opportunities are coming. In the meantime, feel free to send a shout to me on any of your favorite social networks: Twitter, Google Plus, or Facebook.
I just completed my first Armchair Analysis column for the League of One project over at KmartGamer, and I hope that it will go live in the next few days. I’ll be sure to share the link here when it does.
In the meantime, I have five points of observation that I’d like to mention here since I haven’t updated the blog yet this week.
1. It’s not so bad: Sensationalist headlines could have casual observers running for hills when it comes to how this year’s sales numbers compare with last year. Don’t fall for this. Let’s keep in mind that the newer Xbox 360 models– the Xbox 360 Slim– really flew off of store shelves last July. We’re now a year removed from that and now YOY numbers will bump into that success. Big difference between 443,500 units last year compared with 277,000 units this year. At a bare minimum, that’s a decline of $33.3 million dollars (for the $200 SKU). This should have been expected. Worse yet, Wii sales in July were about only about 190,000 units as compared with 253,900 last year. That’s -25% YOY, but it’s arguable that the Wii is at a point of saturation and is likely in its last 12 months of realistic shelf life. YOY declines for Wii should not be a surprise, either.
2. PS3 price cut needed: It’s been two years since the last PlayStation 3 price cut, and one is long overdue. PlayStation 3 sales have been stagnant to downright disappointing and it’s time for Sony to do something about it. Excuses like worrying that making the PS3 cost less than the upcoming Vita platform or that Sony wants to maintain profitability are just those– excuses. The Vita is at least 7 months away. As for profitability, if Sony hasn’t figured out how to manufacture PS3 hardware more cheaply after two years, there’s something very wrong. Sales are so bad right now that Sony is keying on increases in PlayStation Move and Sharpshooter sales as positives while hiding unit sales of its flagship platform. With great software due over the next few months, Sony could spark new hardware sales with a simple cut. The opportunities have been there, but the window for making the PlayStation 3 more than the red-headed stepchild of this console generation is closing rapidly. Action, Sony. Not spin.
3. Spread the (software) wealth: I discussed this on Twitter on Thursday, and I stand by my viewpoint: Weak results in software sales are at least partially attributable to video game publishers. The bottom line is this: If you don’t release any games in a month, nobody is going to buy any games that month. It’s common sense. The “slow season” mentality doesn’t wash with me because publishers march so many games out in such a tight span between September and November. I want to hear legitimate reasons as to why July is a taboo month, or why better planning for development can’t be carried out to ensure that a few games hit the July window. Spare me that “nobody buys games in the summer” argument, please, because that died when the average age for gaming consumers went over 18 years ago. Now Dad plays games, and he’s not on a 12-week vacation. Why wouldn’t he drop $60 on, say, War in the North if it came out in July? Instead, it’s coming out in November and will likely be forgotten or ignored at retail because there are dozens of other titles that will pique his interest. Why can’t publishers try leveling out their release calendars and maybe save some of these games that will likely fail during the holidays? I don’t get it.
4. Power of the price drop: Two unexpected games on the NPD Top 10 Software chart, Major League Baseball 2K11 and Fallout: New Vegas, enjoyed renewed success due to price cuts. MLB 2K11 dropped to $40 and Fallout: New Vegas went down to $20. The 6th position on the chart is the best that MLB 2K11 has done and also marks the first time it’s made the Top 10. Price cuts matter, especially in this economy. Combine that with a slow release month, and you get instant sales. Other publishers should take notice.
5. Just Dance just sells: Just Dance 2 is a sales monster. It’s consistently been in the Top 10 since its release last October, and this is despite sales on only one platform (Wii), as opposed to multiplatform sellers like Call of Duty: Black Ops and Mortal Kombat. The game has now sold over 5 million copies in the United States alone, which is impressive. While the effect of Just Dance 3 going multiplatform is hard to predict, I think that the IP will have continued success on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3… although the success will be lower due to the requirement of peripherals to play. Wii sales should still be strong, given the size of the Wii’s installed userbase, but it remains to be seen just how much of the Wii’s potential marketshare will be lost to high-definition competition.
I can’t wait to share my in-depth analysis once it’s posted at KmartGamer, but I hope that these five observations are enough to spark some reaction. Feel free to chime in with your own observations and analysis!