Archive for April, 2008

NPD March 2008

NPD sales data for March is as follows:

Hardware Sales:

Wii: 721k
NDS: 698k
PSP: 297k
360: 262k
PS3: 257k
PS2: 216k

Software Sales:

1. Super Smash Bros. (Wii) 2.7M
2. Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 (360) 752.3K
3. Army of Two (360) 606.1K
4. Wii Play (Wii) 409.8K
5. God of War: Chains of Olympus (PSP) 340.5K
6. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (PSP) 301.6K
7. Guitar Hero III (Wii) 264.1K
8. MLB 2K8 (360) 237.1K
9. Call of Duty 4 (360) 237K
10. Army of Two (PS3) 224.9K


Nintendo wasn’t lying when they said that Wii shipments would be increased for the launch of Smash Bros. Brawl (which sold extremely well). The console sold like hotcakes in March (and was still supply constrained, even with the bump in stock), and DS also clocked in with another fantastic month, with just shy of 700k units sold. But while Nintendo’s success is noteworthy, it’s ultimately unsurprising (at this point), and the battle between 360 and PS3 is more interesting, especially with the impending April launch of Grand Theft Auto 4.

After finishing behind PS3 in January and February, 360 regained its lead in March. While I’m sure that Microsoft is happy to have slowed Sony’s momentum (mindshare-wise, anyway), I doubt that their paltry advantage (5k) will have any calming effect on their collective blood pressure. They are no doubt looking forward to the critical April period. The comparative success of GTA4 on 360 and PS3 will be very telling in regards to how the industry will look at the end of the generation.

The success of GTA4 (as in, the game itself) is guaranteed – it will sell extremely well and might even break a record or two. But whereas GTA3, GTA: Vice City, GTA: San Andreas all debuted on a single platform (PS2), the latest iteration will simultaneously launch on 360 and PS3, and there are a number of variables that make this a particularly interesting scenario.

  1. The massive userbase advantage that 360 has over PS3 will no doubt ensure that GTA4 will sell the most units on Microsoft’s box (in April, at least). 360 owners love them some software.
  2. Despite 360’s sizeable userbase lead, there is something to be said for the fact that GTA has been historically a PlayStation franchise. Some analysts have predicted that GTA4 will sell the most copies on 360, but will sell the most PS3s. It’s an interesting thought, but the concept of games ‘selling’ hardware is tough to nail down finitely. Still, I think it’s safe to say that the difference between 360 and PS3 sales for GTA4 will be closer than the userbase would imply (much like Devil May Cry 4 sold relatively (copies/userbase) better on PS3 than 360, while the recent Rainbow Six Vegas 2 sold relatively much better on 360).
  3. Perhaps the most definable difference between the PS3 and 360 version of GTA4 is the fact that Microsoft has secured the rights to exclusive Downloadable Content. Set to be released later in the year, rumors indicate that there will be a substantial amount of content available (although hard facts on that issue aren’t readily available). Knowing Microsoft, I’m sure that they will be heavily marketing their content advantage, but it’s tough to say whether DLC is enough value added for the average consumer.

March was interesting, but April and May will be truly indicative of trends heading into the summer months. I had thought that Microsoft might drop the price of 360 in anticipation of GTA4, but it looks like they are content to let things ride at the current prices (at least in the States – they dropped the price in Europe). Sony has been working hard to get the PS3 to a place where it can really benefit from the familiarity of the GTA brand name (it will be one of the first “PlayStation” franchises to hit the console), and by-and-large, they have done a good job. I can’t wait for the results.

Don’t forget about Nintendo, though. They will sell a lot of hardware (though the weak dollar might compel Nintendo to send excess stock to other places), and Mario Kart Wii will shock some people with its strong sales. And then watch out for WiiFit in May – it will send Wii’s popularity to new heights (scary, no?).


XNA Boss Comments on Zune Progress

In a recent interview with Eurogamer, Chris Satchell, head of the XNA platform at Microsoft, commented on the progress of Zune as a gaming device (it’s going well).

“That touchpad is great,” said Satchell, who demonstrated a basic Zune shoot-’em-up called Zauri at GDC in February. “I’m used to mobile games and it’s always terrible. Not the games, but the input. And so this sort of blew me away.”

I’ve been curious about Microsoft’s handheld gaming plans for the past couple of years.  Since the original Xbox launched in 2001, rumors have consistently popped up hinting that Microsoft was planning on giving Nintendo’s DS and Sony’s PSP some competition.  Those rumors have yet to materialize, and with Microsoft’s new focus on Zune as a gaming platform, I’d bet that any plans for a more traditional handheld have been shelved for the time being.  And that’s the right call.

Nintendo has taken the world by storm with DS – they’ve seemingly captured the Game Boy’s audience while enticing new gamers of all kinds (most notably women).  And they’ve done it by positioning DS as a games first handheld. 

That leaves an opening for Microsoft to make some headway with Zune as a more media centric product (where they’d be competing with things like cell phones).  Sony tried to take a similar angle with the PSP, but their marketing has been confusing – they’ve positioned PSP as both a games device and a media device, but the software library was initially lacking and its media functions are basic at best.  Ultimately, PSP’s mindshare is muddled among consumers, as no one knows exactly what to make of it.

The Zune brand has made some great strides in the market since the release of Zune 2 last November, and an added emphasis on gaming could really give it some differentiation compared to Apple’s iPod. Of course, iPod already has gaming capabilities, but with their XNA initiative, Microsoft could really make some noise with community created games.  It looks like that’s the avenue they’re taking, and I think it’s going to really pay off for them.

Predictions: NPD March 2008

NPD video game sales data for March 2008 will be released this Thursday.  My hardware predictions are as follows:

NDS: 700,000 (-4.76%)
WII: 660,000 (+22.22%)
PS2: 370,000 (-15.91%)
360: 340,000 (-4.63%)
PS3: 335,000 (+6.67%)
PSP: 320,000 (+5.35%)

March was tracked as a 5 week month (compared to the usual 4), so numbers look high all around.  Note that the percentages above are a comparison of weekly sales  in February and predicted weekly sales in March. 

I’m predicting that DS and Wii will have stellar months, with Wii in particular getting some increased stock on the heels of Super Smash Bros. Brawl (which sold 1.4 million copies in its first week of release).  All indications are that 360’s shortage issues were worked out during March, so it will be interesting to see how things play out between it and PS3.  PSP and PS2 should see sales inline with their monthly averages.

As a bonus, here are some software predictions:

[360 Guitar Hero III] 150K
[360 Lost Odyssey] 50K
[360 Rainbow Six Vegas 2] 450K
[NDS FFCC: Rings of Fate] 125K
[PS3 Hot Shots Golf 5] 35K
[PS3 Rainbow Six Vegas 2] 110K
[PSP Crisis Core: FFVII] 160K
[PSP God of War: Chains] 140K
[WII Guitar Hero III] 210K
[WII Super Smash Bros. Brawl] 2300K

Actual sales data from The NPD Group will be released on Thursday, March 17th after market close (4:00 PM).

Steven King on Violence in Video Games

There’s been a lot of discussion lately on the effects of violence in video games on children, with numerous arguments coming from both sides of the issue.  Most recently, accomplished author Steven King has published his thoughts on the Massachusets proposal to ban the sale of violent games to minors.

So, nope — videogames are not my thing. Nor am I some kind of raving political nutcase. But when I heard about HB 1423, which happens to be a bill pending in the Massachusetts state legislature, I still hit the roof. HB 1423 would restrict or outright ban the sale of violent videogames to anyone under the age of 18. Which means, by the way, that a 17-year-old who can get in to see Hostel: Part II would be forbidden by law from buying (or renting, one supposes) the violent but less graphic Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

It’s probably no surprise, but I agree with King.  Beyond the issue of the effects of violence in games on children (which has seen nebulous conclusion at best), it seems odd and illogical that the games industry has been singled out among the Film, TV, and Music industries.

According to the proposed bill, violent videogames are pornographic and have no redeeming social merit. The vid-critics claim they exist for one reason and one reason only, so kids can experience the vicarious thrill of killing. Now, what does and doesn’t have social merit is always an interesting question, one I can discuss for hours. But what makes me crazy is when politicians take it upon themselves to play surrogate parents. The results of that are usually disastrous. Not to mention undemocratic.

King, who himself has authored of a number of violent books (note how the book industry has no rating or regulatory system at all), ends with a interesting take on the nature of violence in our culture – and more notably, how our government responds to it.

What really makes me insane is how eager politicians are to use the pop culture — not just videogames but TV, movies, even Harry Potter — as a whipping boy. It’s easy for them, even sort of fun, because the pop-cult always hollers nice and loud. Also, it allows legislators to ignore the elephants in the living room. Elephant One is the ever-deepening divide between the haves and have-nots in this country, a situation guys like Fiddy and Snoop have been indirectly rapping about for years. Elephant Two is America’s almost pathological love of guns. It was too easy for critics to claim — falsely, it turned out — that Cho Seung-Hui (the Virginia Tech killer) was a fan of Counter-Strike; I just wish to God that legislators were as eager to point out that this nutball had no problem obtaining a 9mm semiautomatic handgun. Cho used it in a rampage that resulted in the murder of 32 people. If he’d been stuck with nothing but a plastic videogame gun, he wouldn’t even have been able to kill himself.

While the proposed law in Massachusets is worrying, similar laws in other states have been ultimately deemed unconstitutional.  Even still, it’s nice to see such a visible figure as King, a self-described non-gamer, publish a coherent explanation on why the games industry should not be singled out amongst all forms of media in respect to government intervention.

Iwata Asks: Mario Kart Wii

A new installment of the long running Iwata Asks series of developer interviews is up, and as usual, it’s a great read.  Iwata is joined by Hideki Konno (Producer of MKWii), Kenichiro Ashida (Project Lead for the Wii Wheel), and the venerable Shigeru Miyamoto.

 Check it out.