Archive for December, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I hope that Christmas day finds you all in good spirits and in good company. Have a great day!

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Excite!

I’ve been back home on holiday for the past week, and since I don’t have my current slate of in-progress games with me, I decided to dig into some backlog. I picked up a few more stars on my second Mario Galaxy playthrough (I keep forgetting just how spectacular that game really is), and I made it through a few circuits in Excite Truck, a title that I didn’t put enough time into during the Wii launch period.

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Looking back at the somewhat inconsistent and unfocused two years of Wii’s life, Excite Truck is a great example of what most Wii games should aspire to. The game is extremely accessible (there are only 3 main user inputs), and yet it provides a great sense of enjoyment for gaming veterans and noobs alike. I think that a lot of games, in an effort to appeal to the deluge of new gamers, have skewed too far in the casual direction.

There is a difference between simple and boring, and developers should learn to distinguish between the two.

The Prince Is Back

I’ve put a couple of hours into the new Prince of Persia game, and despite some interesting design differences from the last gen Prince games (I liked Sands of Time and Two Thrones, but wasn’t a fan of Warrior Within), I’m enjoying myself. Instead of the considered, stop/start level design of the previous games, this title borrows more from Assassin’s Creed. Here, flow is the name of the game – you’ll rarely have to pause to contemplate your next jump, as the levels are designed to encourage seamless acrobatic movement.

Based on my experience thus far, I’m a little shocked at the negative reviews the game has received from a number of outlets (most recently, Edge gave the title a 5/10, though their review parameters are deliciously harsh). We’ll see how I feel after sinking some more time into it. One thing is for certain, though – the game is absolutely gorgeous. Perhaps the most striking visual design I’ve ever witnessed.

Prince of Persia

In the wake of the new NPD numbers, CNN Money posted an article outlining the tough position that Sony is in with their high priced PS3. The Washingon Post issued a rebuttal of that article yesterday, though their piece reads more like a Sony PR than a legitimate argument. I’ve been down on PS3 from a sales perspective for a long time now (and I’m not the only one), but CNN’s article is the first negative portrayal of Sony’s situation I’ve seen in the mainstream press.

NPD November 2008

NPD sales data for November is as follows:

Hardware Sales

Wii: 2.04 million
360: 836k
PS3: 378k
PS2: 206k
NDS: 1.57 million
PSP: 421k

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Software Sales

Overall Top 10 Video Game Titles

  1. Gears of War 2 (360) – 1.56 million
  2. Call of Duty: World At War (360) – 1.41 million
  3. Wii Play (Wii) – 796k
  4. Wii Fit (Wii) – 697k
  5. Mario Kart (Wii) – 637k
  6. Call of Duty: World At War (PS3) – 597k
  7. Guitar Hero World Tour (Wii) – 475k
  8. Left 4 Dead (360) – 410k
  9. Resistance 2 (PS3) – 385k
  10. Wii Music (Wii) – 297k
  11. Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii)
  12. Fallout 3 (360)
  13. Rock Band (Wii)
  14. Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia (DS)
  15. Guitar Hero World Tour (360)
  16. Mario Kart (DS)
  17. Guitar Hero World Tour (PS2)
  18. WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 (PS2)
  19. Fable II (360) – 184k
  20. Madden NFL 09 (360)

Miscellaneous Numbers

  • LittleBigPlanet (PS3) – 141k
  • Valkyria Chronicles (PS3) – 33k

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Bullet Points

  • Wii set a new November sales record. Look out for another record breaking performance in December.
  • 360 posted a nice increase over October and also took the top 2 software spots for the month. Microsoft should be happy with their performance over Sony’s box.
  • All three PlayStation platforms saw a year over year decrease in sales.

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Analysis

If you’ve been following the Video Game industry for the past couple of years, you won’t be surprised to see that Wii took the #1 spot for November, but you might be a little shocked at the size of its advantage – 2 million units sold in a non-December month is a new console sales record.

Further, Wii software continues to impress despite a lower profile fall release schedule than 360/PS3. Wii Play, Wii Fit, and Mario Kart Wii (all top 10 staples since their respective releases) were #3, 4, and 5 respectively, and even the recently released Guitar Hero World Tour managed to outpace its HD counterparts. As an interesting aside, the original Rock Band for Wii managed to outsell the new Rock Band 2 for 360/PS3 – the sequel releases for Wii midway through December.

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Despite a large gap between between Wii and 360 in HW sales, Microsoft’s box managed a solid performance in November. Gears of War 2 and Call of Duty: World at War, both highly anticipated shooters, finished at #1 and #2 respectively.

While sales were in line with my predictions, I still wonder if Microsoft hadn’t hoped for a little bit more growth over 2007. Sales only increased 66k units (836k this month compared to 770k in November 2007), and though 2007 sales were propelled by Halo 3’s wake, that game released in September, and in many ways it’s impact was minimal by the time November rolled around (at least in regards to its own sell through).

Still, the future looks bright for Microsoft, especially in light of PS3’s stagnation. Their multi-pronged ad campaign should continue to generate interest throughout the year and into 2009, and consumers have responded very positively to the September price cuts.

Sony’s platforms had a dismal month. PS3 sales were down YOY (as were PSP and PS2, for that matter), and when compared to Wii’s and 360’s gains, it’s just hard to see a positive aspect in this month’s data. Software sales for Resistance 2 were solid but not spectacular, and October’s LittleBigPlanet, heralded by many as a game that might move some hardware the platform in a new market segment, showed disappointing legs with only 141k sold in its second month.

Price was no doubt a barrier of entry for a lot of consumers. With Nintendo producing a historic amount of lower priced (and more popular) Wii units and Microsoft finally hitting the 199 dollar sweet spot with their Arcade sku, PS3 just has very little unique value in the eyes of consumers.

For a long time, Sony has been touting the machine’s excellent Blu-ray, but that strategy lost traction in November as a number of standalone Blu-ray units sold for ~150 dollars throughout the month leading up to Black Friday. Consumers have associated PS3 with the Blu-ray format since launch, and while that may have provided an outlet for Sony to move some extra units, that association is now moot as lower priced players are finally in high supply. Even worse, it might be hard to shift consumer mindshare towards PS3’s game library this late in the generation.

As always, thanks to NPD and the community at NeoGAF.

Predictions: NPD November 2008

NPD video game sales data for November 2008 will be released this Thursday. 

Predictions

Format: “Total Hardware” (“Weekly Hardware” | “% change of weekly sales over October”)

Wii: 1440k ( 360k | +79.33% )
360: 840k ( 210k | +126.42% )
PS3: 392k ( 98k | +106.32% )
PS2: 316k ( 79k | +132.35% )
NDS: 1320k ( 330k | +168.84% )
PSP: 540k ( 135k | +179.79% )

Notes regarding my predictions:

  • A general rule regarding November HW totals is that they are 2x October numbers. Of course, the multiplier varies based on stock issues and price.
  • Wii sales will be enormous – Nintendo announced that 800k consoles were sold over the week of Thanksgiving, and there have been reports of massive restocks throughout the entire month.
  • PS3 will have trouble eclipsing 400k thanks to its high price and the fact that many Blu-ray players are now retailing for under 200 dollars.
  • 360’s new price and comprehensive ad campaign should ensure continued growth.

Actual sales data from The NPD Group will be released on Thursday, December 11th after market close (4:00 PM).

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe

There are a lot of things to play this winter (at least on 360, Wii’s rest-of-year lineup is mediocre at best). It’s a little overwhelming, to be honest. I only have so much time, and while I have an inherent urge to play as many games as possible, I’ve found that the added stress of rushing through games ultimately drains a lot of fun out of the process.

With that in mind, I had a hard time picking out my next adventure. I was originally going to purchase Fallout 3, but I had second thoughts after reading some impressions. I thought Oblivion was utterly boring, and though it sounds like Bathesda’s latest is more to my liking, I’m not willing to take the risk when there are other games on the docket.

Left4Dead was next on the list, but as with The Orange Box, I’m having a hard time deciding which platform to buy the game for. I’m predominantly a Laptop user these days, and I imagine that the 360 experience will be more fulfilling (TV and comfy couch). Still, perhaps more so than other Valve games, the prospect of mods and official expansions for L4D is enough to make me pause – there will be some amazing stuff down the line, and I’m worried that Microsoft’s restrictions will keep a lot of that off of their console.

Still stuck in zombie limbo, I decided to take a chance on Prince of Persia. IGN gave it a glowing review last week, but since it’s still the only published review I can find, I’m taking that score with a grain of salt. Regardless, I loved Sands of Time (and really enjoyed The Two Thrones), and I’m willing to give the new game a chance. That the graphics are so gorgeous doesn’t hurt.