Archive for January, 2009

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Prince of Persia has some DLC on the way, and I’m pretty excited at how Ubsoft is approaching it. The new content will pick up right where the game left off (which was totally awesome), and while I’m not expecting a lot of forward movement in the story, I am definitely interested to see how the characters react to the game’s ending developments. New moves and traps  are also on deck, so count me in.

Prince DLC

In preparation for a recent cross country plane flight, I downloaded some episodes of Lost from iTunes. I’ve never spent serious time with Apple’s online store, just some casual playlist editing here and there at various parties over the years, so I guess I just wasn’t familiar with the “rules.”

You see, I’m a fan of digital content – I like XBLA and WiiWare, and I think services like Netflix’s online streaming and On Demand show great promise. That said, digital distribution becomes rather useless if certain use cases are not supported. Case in point, I ended up only watching 2 of the 4 Lost episodes from iTunes on the plane flight (stupid battery!). Not thinking my content was in danger, I formatted my HDD to install the newly released Windows 7 Beta. The other day, I decided to fire up the third episode.

Of course, it wasn’t on on my hard drive. No matter. I reinstalled iTunes, signed into my account, and tried to figure out a way to look at my purchase history. I eventually found a list, but there were no links for redownload. Puzzled, I headed to the store and found the episodes I’d already purchased, expecting to find a means to restore my content. Nothing. Turns out that I’m screwed.

How, in any way, is this acceptable? The entire upside of digital distribution is that it’s more convenient. I’m not supposed to have to worry about my content’s well being. What is Apple expecting me to do… burn my Lost episodes to disc? Seriously? Why wouldn’t I just buy them in a store instead?

Perhaps I haven’t been looking very hard, but I’m shocked that I haven’t read about this situation on the internet. On Xbox Live, if I buy a Lost episode, I’m buying a license to watch that content. I can delete and redownload it to my heart’s content. Why hasn’t Apple been forced to follow suit?

Rumble Massage

Prince of Persia ends on a high note, which is good, because the game is essentially the same gameplay scenario from start to finish. What’s there is good, but it’s spread a little too thin. Hopefully Ubi Montreal gets to do a sequel – with some extra content and more gameplay variety, they’d have a great title on their hands. As it is now, Prince of Persia doesn’t quite reach that high mark. Still, the fantastic ending sequence (both gameplay and story wise) left a good taste in my mouth, so I’m looking forward to what comes next.

There’s a “game” on the XNA Community Games portal (XBL Arcade) called Rumble Massage that, well… aims to give you a massage. You choose the appropriate massage intensity and place your controller behind your head. And that’s it. While I understand if some people won’t be able to justify the purchase of the full game, I have to take my hats off to the developers for making a great demo. They provide you with full functionality, sans the most intense massage mode – “epic” mode. I don’t know if I can resist it. Can you?

Where’s Waldo

It’s been a rough week from a posting standpoint, but there’ve been a number of major changes in my life that demanded my attention. Doesn’t mean that gaming hasn’t been on my mind, though – I’ll be back with thoughts on new games like Gears of War 2 and Left4Dead next week.

Cheers!

NPD December 2008

NPD sales data for December is as follows:

Note: December is tracked as a 5 week month (November is tracked as a 4 week month), so all percentage calculations are based off of weekly sales.

Hardware Sales

Wii: 2.15m
360: 1.44m
PS3: 726k
PS2: 410k
NDS: 3.04m
PSP: 1.02m

Weekly Sales December 08

Software Sales

Overall Top 10 Video Game Titles

  1. Wii Play (Wii) – 1.46 million
  2. Call of Duty: World At War (360) – 1.33 million
  3. Wii Fit (Wii) – 999k
  4. Mario Kart Wii (Wii) – 878k
  5. Guitar Hero World Tour (Wii) – 859k
  6. Gears of War 2 (360) – 745k
  7. Left 4 Dead (360) – 629k
  8. Mario Kart (NDS) – 540k
  9. Call of Duty: World At War (PS3) – 533k
  10. Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii) – 497k

Sales Trends December 08 

Bullet Points

  • Once again, my Wii prediction was off the mark (though this time I overshot it). There were some reports of shortages, but I was banking on more robust supply.
  • 360 showed solid growth over November, though its increase in sales  over December 2007 were smaller than Microsoft might have wanted.
  • Like November, all three PlayStation platforms saw a year over year decrease in sales.

YOY Trends December 08

Analysis

As has been the case all year long, Nintendo’s Wii and NDS took the historically busy month of December. Continuing the momentum generated by Microsoft’s September price drop, Xbox 360 turned in a solid performance with modest gains over 2007. Sony’s platforms, on the other hand, had a tough month, as each of them posed smaller totals than December 2007.

NoE recently announced 2008 sales numbers for NDS and Wii in Europe, and similarly to US returns, both platforms had record years. Wii sales for the year totaled over 8.3 million units, making it the largest year for a home console in Europe ever. Not to be outdone, NDS sold 11.2 million units during 2008, making it the largest year for any console in European history. The LTD (lifetime to date) sales of Wii and NDS in Europe are 14.2 million and 31 million units respectively.

The most impressive aspect of Nintendo’s success thus far is that they have left themselves with a number of ways to maintain (and perhaps further propel) consumer demand in the future. On the NDS side of things, the hardware remains at $129.99 – its original launch price. While the most logical means of maintaining demand would be for Nintendo to drop the price of the handheld as warranted, it looks like the company might go in a different direction. The DSi, an NDS hardware refresh that was released in Japan during Fall 2008, is rumored to release in North America in April this year at $179.

Monthly HW December 08

Nintendo has managed Wii’s success in a similar manner. Its current MSRP ($249) is the same as its launch price, and with each unit reportedly being sold at a handsome profit, Nintendo will have no problems dropping the price as demand wanes. Further, it has been customary in past generations for Nintendo to periodically release their consoles in new colors and with unique designs, but they have yet to find a reason to reach into this bag of tricks with Wii. Expect to see new colors at some point in 2009.

Whichever way you slice it, Nintendo is sitting pretty on the success of Wii and NDS. They have this generation wrapped up from a numbers perspective, and it will be interesting to see how the company leverages their current dominance throughout the next few years and into their next product releases.

Microsoft continues to ride the wave of momentum generated from their September price cuts. Sales have continued to climb, and though their November and December 2008 results are only marginally better than their 2007 returns, you won’t hear them complaining in the face of Nintendo’s sales monsoon and a shaky economy.

Aggregate HW December 08

Still, there’s definitely something to be said for the fact that 360 was not able to more prominently outpace last year’s totals for November and December. The console is significantly cheaper than it was last year, and while it’s hard to compare 2007’s and 2008’s respective lineups from an objective basis, 2008’s slate, at the least, had some heavy hitters. I think the economy might be pointed to as some means of explanation, but it’s worth noting that Wii showed a marked improvement over 2007 (and might have done better had there been a more robust supply) despite any issues with the economy. That’s not to say that Microsoft should be concerned with their returns, but I’ll be interested to see how the next few months unfold.

Microsoft’s success is more apparent in contrast to Sony’s lagging sales. As in November, all of Sony’s platforms saw a year over year decrease in sales in December – not exactly the positive trend that the company was no doubt hoping for. Still, it’s not as if this decrease in sales has been unexpected. Especially in the face of Microsoft’s price drop, it was clear in September that there was little Sony could do this year to reverse the stagnation.

Don’t expect the situation to improve for Sony in the short term. As I mentioned in last month’s analysis, the PS3’s Blu-ray capability is  no longer a compelling part of the console’s feature set since there are now a number of players retailing for ~$150. Further, it seems as if Sony is in no hurry to drop the price – Dan Reeves of SCEE recently commented, “The most important thing for us as a company in the very short term is for us to start making money.”

That’s not to say that the game is over completely. With the manufacturing costs of PS3 dropping consistently, it won’t be long before Sony does start making a slight profit on unit sales. The only question is whether or not that milestone will immediately spur a price drop (as Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter thinks will happen). I can’t imagine that Sony can afford (ironic?) to wait for too long for a price slash of some kind, but it will be interesting to see what happens.

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

Predictions: NPD December 2008

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

Predictions

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

Note: December is tracked as a 5 week month (November is tracked as a 4 week month), so all percentage calculations are based off of weekly sales.

Wii: 3100k ( 620k | +21.57% )
360: 1400k ( 280k | +33.97% )
PS3: 750k ( 150k | +58.73% )
PS2: 690k ( 138k | +167.96% )
NDS: 2450k ( 490k | +24.84% )
PSP: 825k ( 165k | +56.77% )

Notes regarding my predictions:

  • Despite posting smaller % gains than the rest of the field, expect NDS and Wii to have monster months. I’m bullish on Wii in spite of early reports that stock wasn’t meeting consumer demand leading up to Christmas.
  • All 3 PlayStation brands will have weaker holidays than 2007. The market for PSP and PS2 has dried up a bit, and PS3’s high price point has hurt its appeal.
  • 360 will see modest gains over November, and overall should post a notably stronger holiday season this year than last year.

Actual sales data from The NPD Group will be released on Thursday, January 15th after market close (4:00 PM).

Moment of Silence

1up was sold to UGO/Hearst earlier this week. A number of employees were let go, and EGM was shut down all together. I’m not too torn up about EGM’s demise (frankly, I just don’t see the point of gaming magazines), but the personalities at 1up really set it apart from other websites. In particular, I really enjoyed their podcasts, 1up Yours especially. People losing their jobs is never a pleasant thing, and I hope they all land on their feet somewhere. I wish them all the best.

More so than any year I can remember, Q1 of 2009 is loaded from a content perspective. There are a number of games on both 360’s and Wii’s release slates that I’ve got my eye on.

Wii

  • Little King’s Story
  • Tenchu 4
  • Deadly Creatures
  • Mad World
  • Pro Evolution Soccer 2009
  • The Conduit
  • The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces

360

  • Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box
  • F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
  • Halo Wars
  • Resident Evil 5
  • The Godfather II

Since I’ve still got some things in my backlog, I won’t purchase everything on the list (at least not initially). Still, I like this continuing trend of spreading content out over the course of the whole year instead of putting every big release in Q4.

So This Is The New Year

I haven’t posted in a while, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been hammering away at my backlog. I trust that all of you had a fantastic holiday.

– My brother picked me up a copy of KORG DS-10 for Christmas. It’s more of a real synthesizer than a game, and despite its hilarious complexity, I’ve managed to put together some solid tunes. Ultimately, trying to hammer out a techno version of the Zelda theme has given me a lot of respect for people that do this sort of thing on a regular basis.

– After some time off, I’ve jumped back into Prince of Persia. The visuals continue to impress, but I’m a little concerned that the general structure of the game is too cookie-cutter. So far, it seems like the game consists of platforming around to find and enemy, killing said enemy, and then collecting enough “light seeds” in the newly cleansed fertile ground to move to the next area. The platforming is fun enough to maintain this workflow (playflow?), but I was hoping for a more dynamic experience.

– As we approach December NPDs, Sony’s David Reeves (President of SCEE) said today that “The most important thing for us as a company in the very short term is for us to start making money.” Reading between the lines, it looks like a price cut before April is unlikely. I’d wager that Microsoft is okay with that.