Archive for December, 2007

NPD November 2007: Digging Deeper

Though official NPD numbers were released last Thursday, some additional information was released over the weekend that allows us to take our analysis of the market much further.

Tie Ratios through November 2007:
(Note: Tie ratio is the number of games sold per console sold)

360: 6.85
PS3: 4.01
Wii: 3.86 (not including Wii Sports)

Hardware Sales LTD  Estimates(Lifetime to Date):

360: 7,900,000
Wii: 6,000,000
PS3: 2,450,000

Number of weeks that an average user has owned each system (and average date of purchase):
(thanks to JoshuaJSlone)

X360: 49.3 (December 21, 2006)
PS3: 29.3 (May 10, 2007)
Wii: 25.6 (June 5, 2007)

Software Sales LTD Estimates (Hardware LTD * Tie Ratio):

360: 54,000,000
Wii: 23,000,000
PS3: 10,000,000

Software Sales Trends (Average Weeks of Ownership / Tie Ratio):
(thanks to D.Lo)

Wii: 1 game bought every 6.6 weeks
360: 1 game bought every 7.2 weeks
PS3: 1 game bought every 7.3 weeks

It’s always interesting when data like this is released, because it gives a pretty clear (as clear as reasonably possible, anyway) picture of how consumers are spending their money in the industry. Hardware sales are usually given the most scrutiny (which is as much of a function of data availability as interest), but software is what really drives this industry and so it’s nice to be able to focus on it every once in a while.

It’s important to note that a console’s tie ratio does not grow linearly as its userbase increases. So while it seems that Wii is trending the best out of the three consoles, 360 is still the software champ – a 6.85 tie ratio at this point in a console’s lifetime is historic. Further, its userbase skews more towards the ‘hardcore’ than Wii’s, so 360 will most likely see a higher tie ratio for the foreseeable future. It will be interesting to see if Wii can sell enough hardware to make this tie ratio difference a moot point. After all, while these sales trends are interesting from a predictions point of view, it’s the actual number of games sold that publishers ultimately care about.

Other sales data for specific titles (released from various websites (thanks to Raw64life for compiling), including IGN’s Nintendo team’s weekly podcast):

360 Rock Band (T) 312k
360 Assassin’s Creed: Collector’s Edition (M) 140k

Wii Mario And Sonic At The Olympic Games (E) 328k
Wii Wii Zapper W/ Link’s Crossbow Training (E) 232k
Wii High School Musical (E) 185k
Wii Lego Star Wars: The Complete Trilogy (E) 180k
Wii Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles (M) 121k
Wii Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 (E) 60k
Wii WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2008 (T) 53k
Wii Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (T) 53k
Wii Medal Of Honor Heroes 2 (T) 31k
Wii Manhunt 2 (M) 19k
Wii Trauma Center: New Blood (T) 15k

NDS Legend Of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (E) 227k
NDS Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings (E) 49k

PS3 Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (T) 117k
PS3 Rock Band (T) 70k
PS3 Ratchet & Clank Future (T) 66k

PC Crysis (M) 87k
PC Unreal Tournament 3 (M) 34k

—–

Rough LTDs (Rounded to nearest 50k)

360 Halo 3 – ~4 Million
360 Assassin’s Creed – ~1 Million
360 Guitar Hero III: Legends Of Rock – ~850k

Wii Wii Play W/Remote – ~3.0 Million
Wii The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess – ~1.8 Million
Wii Mario Party 8 – ~1.4 Million
Wii Super Paper Mario – ~800k
Wii Guitar Hero III: Legends Of Rock – ~700k
Wii Wario Ware: Smooth Moves – ~600k
Wii Rayman Raving Rabbids – ~500k
Wii Metroid Prime 3: Corruption – ~500k
Wii Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition – ~400k
Wii Red Steel – ~400k
Wii Sonic And The Secret Rings – ~350k
Wii Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2007 – ~350k
Wii Call Of Duty 3 – ~300k
Wii Carnival Games – ~300k
Wii Madden NFL 08 – ~300k
Wii Excite Truck – ~250k
Wii Trauma Center: Second Opinion – ~200k
Wii The Bigs – ~200k
Wii My Sims – ~200k
Wii Cooking Mama – ~200k
Wii Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2008 – ~200k
Wii Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party – ~200k
Wii Boogie – ~150k
Wii Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 – ~150k
Wii Harry Potter Order Of Phoenix – ~150k
Wii Transformers – ~150k
Wii Elebits – ~150k
Wii SSX Blur – ~150k
Wii Cars – ~100k
Wii GT Pro Series – ~100k
Wii Happy Feet – ~100k
Wii MLB Power Pros – ~100k
Wii Zack & Wiki: Quest For Barbaro’s Treasure – ~50k

NDS Legend Of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass – ~700k
NDS Drawn To Life – ~200k

PS3 Ratchet & Clank Future – ~150k

PS2 Guitar Hero III: Legends Of Rock – ~1.5 Million

Unfortunately, Wii’s data is far more complete than either 360’s or PS3’s, so it’s tough to get a sense of context out of these numbers. Still, what we do know is that Wii has more games over 300k than GameCube did at this point in its lifespan (20 vs. 12). Of course, Wii’s userbase is much larger now than Cube’s was then, but this improved software performance is nonetheless an indication of an upward trend. And this is all without taking Wii Sports, which is highly popular and packed into every console sold, into account. While we’ll never fully understand the effect that Wii’s most popular game has on new owners’ desire for more games, it’s probably fair to assume that it might, at least, delay the purchase of other games for a certain period of time. It will be interesting to see if Wii’s tie ratio sees any type of statistically surprising increase over the next year or so as new owners move on to new things.

Taken in total, these data give us a pretty clear picture of how all three consoles are performing in the US.

1) 360’s userbase buys a lot of software.

2) Wii’s userbase is growing much faster than 360’s, but it’s more casual than 360’s and thus probably less likely to buy a lot of software. Performance of 3rd party software will be interesting to watch over the next year.

3) While I haven’t talked about it very much in this article, PS3 has neither the huge software sales of 360 nor the insane hardware demand of Wii. Even first party gems like Uncharted and Rachet and Clank aren’t selling well. Sony has a long, uphill climb ahead of them.

NPD November 2007

NPD sales data for November was released today:

NPD November 2007 Totals

Software Sales

1. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (360) 1.57 million
2. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) 1.12 million
3. Assassin’s Creed (360) 980K
4. Guitar Hero 3 (PS2) 967K
5. Wii Play (Wii) 564K
6. Mass Effect (360) 473K
7. Call of Duty 4 (PS3) 444K
8. Guitar Hero 3 (Wii) 426K
9. Halo 3 (360) 387K
10. Assassin’s Creed (PS3) 377K

Other notable releases (by platform):

NDS
Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass 227K
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings 49K

360
Rock Band 312K
Assassin’s Creed: Collector’s Edition 140K

Wii
Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games 328K
Wii Zapper w/ Link’s Crossbow Training 232K
Lego Star Wars: The Complete Trilogy 180K
High School Musical 180K
Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles 121K
Manhunt 2 19K

PS3
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune 117K
Rachet and Clank Future 66K
Rock Band 70K

November is an important time of the year for the video game industry. Like a lot of other electronic and technology products, consoles and games see huge sales in the weeks leading up to Christmas. With that in mind, numbers for the month fell generally in line with my estimates. NDS (1,530,000) and Wii (981,000) continued their impressive showings, while 360 (770,000) also performed well. PSP (567,000) and PS2 (496,000) sold solidly, though PS3 failed (466,000) to live up to its price-drop potential.

NPD November 2007 Weekly

Nintendo’s DS and Wii performed roughly to my expectations, but their massive sales should not be taken for granted. Nintendo has obviously struck a chord with consumers with their emphasis on unique input over state-of-the-art graphics and extensive network features, as this is only the most recent month of many now where both platforms have posted great sales. While software sales for Wii still can’t compare to the mammoth that is the Xbox 360, it’s encouraging to see games like Guitar Hero 3 and Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles perform solidly. Publishers are no doubt happy to see the signs of a healthy 3rd party ecosystem on Wii.

Though Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is not seeing headlines like Wii and DS, it continued its streak great HW sales (that was kick-started by Halo 3 in September) in November. More notable, though, is how well software sold on the console during the month. The big titles (Call of Duty 4, Assassin’s Creed, and Mass Effect) all did very well for themselves, and even Rock Band surprisingly moved over 300k units. While this success across the hardware landscape is no longer shocking, it’s still extremely impressive and, in some way, surely comforts publishers that are wary of PS3’s continued mediocre performance.

As has been a trend for months, November was a bittersweet month for Sony. First up, PSP sold well, though it saw the smallest percentage increase of all systems (other than Wii, which was heavily supply constrained). Though Sony would no doubt like to see some good software sales for the system (PSP software has not been selling well), they are no doubt content with how hardware is moving, especially in light of Nintendo’s DS dominance. They’ve carved themselves a nice niche in the market. Sony should also be ecstatic about the continued success of PS2. The fact that the PS2 version of Guitar Hero 3 was the best selling version this month (by far) is a great indication of how the marketplace still values current gen hardware/software. Unfortunately, Sony can’t be pleased with PS3’s performance. Though I’m not surprised, PS3 simply had to see a better sell through than 466k units to remain competitive in the US market. I just don’t see what else can be done to fix the situation… whether it’s because of price, game library, or public perception, it’s clear that consumers just don’t want the console – at least not as a primary gaming machine.

All in all, while the numbers were huge all around, my predictions were pretty much on the mark. It will be interesting to see how December shapes up. Stay tuned.

Storylines for December:

-Software historically sells well in December, so how will this month’s top titles perform leading up through Christmas?

-How many Wiis can Nintendo ship?

-Will DS break the single-month sales record?

(thanks to sonycowboy at NeoGAF and NPD)

What Numbers Are They Looking At?

I won’t be giving my own end-of-the-year analysis until after December, but I enjoy seeing what other enthusiasts and professionals have to say about the future of the industry. The most recent crop of analysis is especially interesting (amusing?), as it seems that no one has been paying attention to what’s happened so far this year.

A recent piece from The Economist is particularly surprising. Despite the issues that PS3 has had this year, they are predicting that Sony will turn things around and finish the generation neck-and-neck with Nintendo’s Wii. A year ago this would have sounded reasonable (from the PS3 point of view; not many thought Wii would succeed), but how is this in any way rational after PS3’s disappointing 2007? If you look at the graph below (taken from that article), you’ll see that they’re predicting that PS3 will make a statistically shocking improvement in early 2008 and will quickly overtake Xbox 360 within the year.

The Economist Graph

Let me put this in perspective for you – Sony has sold about 2 million PS3’s in the US while Microsoft has sold a little more than 7 million. However, the 360 has had a whole extra year on the market, so trends are more telling than lifetime totals. This year, PS3 has sold 1.29 million units and 360 has sold 2.59 million units (neogaf). But this industry is a global one, and though there’s no denying that PS3 has a stronger presence abroad than 360, it’s safe to assume that PS3 has not outsold 360 this year (see European and Japanese numbers for this year). While this doesn’t point to a slam dunk victory by Microsoft over Sony, I just don’t see how this data can possibly point towards a dramatic PS3 victory.

Even more head-scratching than The Economist’s outlook on the industry is Don Reisinger’s (cnet.com) response to it. Reisinger, to his credit, is not convinced that PS3 will dominate, or even beat, the 360 when all is said and done. But he offers up the even more statistically puzzling prediction that both of these consoles will “kick the Wii to the curb.” How in heck does he figure that will happen? Not only has Wii outsold 360 and PS3 combined this year in the US, it has also sold very well in Europe and is dominating the console scene in Japan.

Since its strong launch in late 2006, analysts have continually predicted that Wii’s popularity would be short-lived. But Wii didn’t slow down – not in the beginning of 2007, not during the usually slow months of summer, and most definitely not recently. If anything, Wii is more popular than ever, and expecting sales to falter drastically anytime soon is, well, craziness. It’s just not going to happen.

Sales momentum is extremely important in the video game industry, especially this early on in a generation. Games take a long time (and a lot of money) to make, and developers/publishers are basing their future plans on today’s trends. And nothing drives momentum like great game libraries. It’s a self-intensifying cycle, and Sony is going to have to work hard (harder than these analysts realize) to get themselves out of the hole they’re in right now.

Crazy Talk

(comic thanks to Kuramu)

Super Mario Galaxy: Final Thoughts

I beat Super Mario Galaxy over a week ago, but I wanted to take some time for the experience to properly marinate in my head. The verdict? Although platformers aren’t my favorite game genre, Galaxy is easily the best game I’ve played this year.

I don’t think I’ve ever played a game so full of variety in regards to scenario/level design, and it’s this constant originality coupled with the rock-solid controls that really make Galaxy so impressive.

Super Mario Galaxy Final

I can’t count the times that I thought “wow, that was really cool” after a certain star, only to never see that gameplay mechanic again for the rest of the game. In one sense, it’s too bad that some of the specific challenges aren’t extended or repeated, because as a general rule, they’re all very fun. But I really admire Nintendo Tokyo for their restraint – they could have created only half of the content that’s in Galaxy and simply reused things to make a game of the same length, and it would have still been an amazing experience. As it is, though, the variety of the star quests instills a giddy expectation in the player as they experience each off-the-wall challenge and anticipate the next.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a few flaws to be found throughout – an intrusive narrative and imperfect camera, to be exact. But I’ve never had more fun playing a game than I had playing Super Mario Galaxy, and that’s all that really matters.

Predictions: NPD November 2007

NPD video game sales data for November 2007 will be released next Thursday. My predictions are as follows:

NDS: 1,340,000 (+192.58% of October)
Wii: 1,040,000 (+100.39%)
360: 800,000 (+118.58%)
PSP: 580,000 (+102.80%)
PS2: 520,000 (+182.61%)
PS3: 460,000 (+280.17%)
GBA: 240,000 (data not given in October)

Video game sales in November and December are historically much higher than other months due to the impending holiday season. That makes predictions difficult because sales trends from previous month are less reliable – while all consoles and handhelds should theoretically see a similar jump in sales, price and availability play a much bigger role than usual during this time of year.

Nintendo saw a strong month of sales in October for Wii and DS, and since both are cheaper (and more popular) than their direct competitors, they’ll top the charts in November. While there should be enough DSs to go around, the Wii is still supply constrained – in fact, new consoles are consistently selling for nearly 100% more than the retail prices of 250$. Nintendo has said that there should be a record number of Wii consoles available for sale in November and December, but how much does that actually mean? I’m excited to find out. Also, I’m intrigued to see the sales of the numerous games that were released during the month (Super Mario Galaxy, Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, Mario and Sonic, Medal of Honor Heroes 2, among others). They’ll be a great indicator of the console’s software ecosystem.

After Halo 3’s release in September, Xbox 360 has seen excellent sales. High profile releases in November (Call of Duty 4, Mass Effect, and Assassin’s Creed) should help to maintain the momentum, driving sales of the console to around 800k for the month. While consumers aren’t having a hard time finding a 360, it’s not from lack of popularity – Microsoft is simply doing a great job of putting a lot of consoles on shelves. Expect software sales to be fantastic.

Though the first few days of sales for the new 400 dollar version of the PS3 couldn’t save the console’s poor performance in October, November will be a better indicator of how the new price is affecting its popularity. A new ad campaign is seeing heavy airtime across the country, and the recently released Uncharted has received great reviews. Still, I don’t expect an impressive month from PS3 – at this point, poor public perception of the console is more damning than the high price. PSP and PS2, on the other hand, should have another solid month in November.

Actual sales data from The NPD Group will be released on Thursday, Dec. 13th after market close (4:00 PM).

Gamespot Editor Fired After Harsh Review

Word around the internets is that Jeff Gerstmann, EIC of Gamespot, was fired late last week after a scathing review of Eidos’s Kane and Lynch.    Eidos was reportedly knees deep in a 100k dollar ad campaign on the website, and rumor has it that they “pulled hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of future advertising from the site” in response to the review.

While I’ve often disagreed with Jeff’s opinions (see his 8.8 for Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess), this is a frustrating reminder of the industry’s ugly reality – the line between honest editorialism and simple PR regurgitation is too often a blurry one.

The gaming industry is still very young, and websites and magazines are in the interesting position of being fed by the very hand they are expected to fairly criticize.  While IGN and Gamespot have some subscription based content, most of their stories and reviews are free for public consumption.  That means that advertising is a major source of revenue, and it must be tempting to pander to game publishers that throw a lot of ad dollars around.

I’d like to believe in the integrity of editors at my favorite gaming websites and magazines, but after stories like this, it’s hard not to view every review score with a heavy dose of skepticism.