Thursday, May 15, 2008

April NPD Tea Leaves

Every month, we get detailed analysis of the sales figures provided by the NPD Group for the video game industry from just about everyone on the internet. Well, this month I thought I'd join in on the discussion with my very own armchair analysis based on silly numbers and my own experience as a gamer and consumer. So here goes..

The Raw Data (taken from Joystiq)

- Wii: 714.2K (previously 721K)
- DS: 414.8K (previously 698K)
- PSP: 192.7K (previously 297K)
- 360: 188K (previously 262K)
- PS3: 187.1K (previously 257K)
- PS2: 124.4K (previously 216K)

The Hardware

Nintendo has demonstrated month after month the unstoppable power of the Wii, and April was no different. Selling an impressive 714K (in a non-holiday month, no less), the Nintendo Wii was way out in front of its current-gen counterparts, Microsoft's Xbox 360 (188K) and Sony's PS3 (187K). To put that into perspective, for every Wii sold last month, there was one Xbox 360 or PS3 sold. While the high-def consoles only had GTA IV to count on for pushing hardware sales, Nintendo had the wave of both Super Smash Bros Brawl and Mario Kart Wii to ride through the past month or so. Also, the people buying Wiis are doing so in a much more viral way than the other consoles, with friends and loved ones being the main stimulus for families and couples to buy. Perhaps all these people going to parties and seeing Smash Bros and Mario Kart are keeping the momentum going for Nintendo. I also feel like "price" is a huge factor in the continuing overall month-to-month sales. The hardware sales chart shows that the top 3 selling systems are all under $250. And since every platform now has enough decent games to warrant a purchase, it really comes down to that affordability, and for the mass market the line has been drawn fairly clearly.

Finally, for the second month in a row, the Xbox 360 has maintained the hardware lead over the PS3, albeit by an almost imperceptible margin. These two consoles will continue to duke it out, but I can't see either one really making too significant an impact over the other during the rest of 2008. GTA IV and upcoming games Metal Gear Solid 4 may offer a slight edge to the PS3, but just like Halo 3 did last year, it will generate a very gradual adoption rate. We already know a great deal about Sony and Microsoft's 2008 lineup, and I doubt there will be anything truly Earth-shattering announced at E3 his July. Nintendo has been relatively quite about its upcoming titles, but with hardware sales like April, does it really have to?

April Software Numbers

1. GTA IV – Xbox 360 – 1.85 million*
2. Mario Kart Wii – Wii – 1.12 million
3. GTA IV – PS3 – 1.00 million*
4. Wii Play w/ remote – Wii – 360K
5. Super Smash Bros. Brawl – Wii – 326K
6. Gran Turismo 5: Prologue – PS3 – 224K
7. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness – DS – 202K
8. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time – DS – 202K
9. Guitar Hero III – Wii – 152K
10. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – Xbox 360 – 141K*
* includes bundles, collector's editions, GOTY editions

The Software

I know it's getting a little redundant, but GTA IV has easily claimed the top spot in April software sales, with the XBox 360 version alone beating out Mario Kart Wii. With a combined cross-platform release of 2.85 million units in the first few days, it's obvious why it broke so many entertainment sales records. Mario Kart also debuted the same week (2 days earlier) with a respectable 1.12 million units sold. No offense Mario, but nothing (not even Master Chief) can stand up to Rockstar and company's marquee title. Hard to believe that GTA IV almost outsold Nintendo's mascot racer on 2 separate platforms this month (especially when you compare the install bases of the PS3 and Wii). Chalk some of that up to there still simply being a lower amount of compelling titles on the PS3.

Other things to note.. Super Smash Bros Brawl continues to sell well (going on month 3 now) coming in at #5. It seems Wii Play is like the software pack-in that won't ever go away. I doubt that controller pack will ever disappear from the software charts, since everyone needs an extra wii-remote.. but should we really consider it a software title? I could see Nintendo transplanting the Wii Play game with another similar mini-game collection title to continue to sell those $40 controller bundles. Two more Pokemon Mystery crap DS games also show up, which just goes to show how powerful the Pokemon brand remains. The $40 Gran Turismo demo (*ahem* I mean Gran Turismo 5 Prologue) shows up at #6, though I'm not sure if that also counts the digital download version as well as retail copies. Rounding out the list are Top 10 mainstays, Call of Duty 4 on 360 and Guitar Hero III on Wii.

Not much else to say except a heck of a lot of people bought GTA IV and Mario Kart Wii. I noticed Microsoft touted their incredibly high attach rate (games sold to consoles sold ratio), but they always do that each month. I guess it's not much different than NBC shouting about how great their numbers are in the much sought after 18-35 demographic for The Office. You might say that this data is even more valuable to publishers than claiming overall sales figures, because at the end of the day, it's really the highly targeted audience that matters. Just like knowing exactly who watches your shows can help advertisers get more for their ad dollars, so too can making games you know will sell well on certain platforms. Like for example, I'm sure the karaoke American Idol game sells much better on the Wii than the 360, which is exactly the right platform for that crap anyway.

So, What Did We Learn?

End of story, Rockstar and Take-Two win, Nintendo definitely wins. But as for who will triumph in claiming second place in the console race, Microsoft or Sony.. you're going to have to look beyond the NPD tea leaves for that particular bit of wisdom. Maybe wait for what Michael Patcher has to say on the matter. He always has an interesting comment for times like these. The main takeaway comes from a Kotaku post: "Total software sales reached $654.7 million for April '08. That's a 68% boost over the previous year." On the whole, the industry is doing very well regardless of the state of our economy at the moment. As always, it's a great time to be a gamer!

1 comment:

freexstate said...

darn 3rd graders and their Pokemon ... :-/