Archive for February, 2009

More Mass Effect

It was with gleeful expectation that I opened the link for Mass Effect 2’s first teaser trailer. The movie itself is ultimately light on content, but it served to remind me of the original’s delightfully quenching experience. Glitchy and unbalanced as it is, it’s one of the most entertaining games I’ve played this generation. I almost find it hard to fathom how fantastic a more polished and varied sequel might be.

Mass Effect 2 Concept art looks great.

I have seemingly emerged from Left4Dead’s brain-pulped waters, but I don’t think I’ll throw my towel in the dryer quite yet. The announcement of free DLC for 360 owners will no doubt compel me to jump back in when the content hits. Until then, the upcoming Prince of Persia expansion and previously drooled-over MadWorld should hit the spot.

I was worried that Grand Theft Auto 4: The Lost and the Damned would convince me to throw down a sure-to-be-wasted 20 bucks, but I think zombie killing staved off the worst of the pangs. It’s not that I don’t see the quality of GTA, it’s that I simply don’t like that quality. I do admit, though, that the main character seems infinitely cooler than Niko.

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It’s a MadWorld

I’m getting very excited for MadWorld. It seems to be the rare combination of a game that is intriguing in its own right while also utilizing Wii in a unique and (this is the important part) value-add manner. The game reportedly really benefits from motion controls, and I’m honestly looking forward to giving it a spin. I’m getting a No More Heroes vibe from this one, and that game was one of the more memorable experiences I’ve had this generation.

I’m having a hard time getting into Gears of War 2. I’ve played through the opening scenario, and though it definitely looks gorgeous (I really appreciate the more colorful palette), I’m not compelled to jump back into it. Admittedly, I wasn’t a big fan of the first game, but I was hoping that a more refined take on the original’s gameplay scenarios would appeal to me in a more profound way. I’ll still give it another shot, but first impressions were not very positive.

NPD January 2009

NPD sales data for January is as follows:

Hardware Sales

Wii: 679.2k
360: 309k
PS3: 203.2k
PS2: 101.2k
NDS: 510.8k
PSP: 172.3k

Weekly Sales January 09

Software Sales

1. Wii Fit (Wii) – 777K
2. Wii Play (Wii) – 415K
3. Mario Kart (Wii) – 292K
4. Left 4 Dead (360) – 243K
5. Call of Duty: World at War (360) – 235K
6. Skate 2 (360) – 199K
7. Guitar Hero World Tour (Wii) – 155K
8. New Super Mario Bros. (DS) – 135K
9. Mario Kart DS (NDS) – 132K
10. Lord of the Rings: Conquest (360) – 113K
11. Call of Duty: World at War (PS3)
12. Gears of War 2 (360)
13. Fallout 3 (360)
14. Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2009 (Wii)
15. Link’s Crossbow Training (Wii)
16. My Fitness Coach (Wii)
17. Rock Band 2 (360)
18. Guitar Hero: World Tour (360)
19. Call of Duty: World at War (Wii)
20. Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Wii)

Aggregate HW January 09 

Bullet Points

  • My predictions were pretty much on point for the month, though I underestimated Wii’s continued demand.
  • If Wii can maintain this pace going forward, it will be on track to eclipse its monster 2008.
  • 360 maintained its holiday momentum with a solid January.
  • As has been the trend over the past few months, all of Sony’s platforms saw a year over year decline.

Analysis to follow.

Monthly HW January 09

Analysis

Ah, the start of a new year – succulent. Like a warm peach pie straight out of the oven on a cold, winter day.

No shocking trends emerged in the first month of 2009, but the story that developed throughout the final months of 2008 gained clarity. Wii and NDS performed strongly, though that has become such a common occurrence that it doesn’t pack the punch that it did early last year as Nintendo’s platforms (Wii in particular) muscled their way through the competition’s gauntlet to emerge the clear front runners of the generation.

This much is clear – Wii (and NDS) will finish this generation as market leader. There’s no doubt about it anymore. Any hopes that Sony and Microsoft might have harbored for a weak finish from Nintendo have been dashed completely. Wii is selling at record pace and will maintain its momentum for the forseeable future. All that’s left is the battle for second place scraps.

Sales Trends January 09 

This will be a fun year. It will be interesting to see how far Sony stretches to grab marketshare from Microsoft, who is coming off of a strong (but not dominant) holiday. Sony recently posted some rough numbers for the fiscal year up to this point, and they are definitely feeling pressure from stock holders to attain (and, where applicable, maintain) profitability in as many of the company’s many product groups as possible.

At the same time, there must be nagging doubts in the minds of some executives that a “profitability rules” mindset is really the most beneficial strategy for the long term interests of the PlayStation brand. Sure, it’d be nice to lessen the impact of recent losses, but the sales numbers for PS3, PS2, and PSP continue to underperform marks from last year. The PlayStation “name” is in danger. Perhaps scaling back will only encourage the brand’s ultimate demise.

YOY January 09

Microsoft is no doubt taking note. After a fairly dismal start to last year (and a very ho-hum reaction to PS3’s surge in 2008 on the wake of Metal Gear Solid 4’s strong release), Xbox 360 was revitalized in the fall with a price drop and the release of a new user interface. By no means did the console achieve extraordinary success, but it saw solid growth in year over year sales, and especially in light of Sony’s plight, I’d wager that Microsoft is pleased with how 2008 ended. They no doubt feel similarly about the strong start to 2009.

Like I said, it’s going to be a fun year. Stick around.

Mmmm, Zombies

I’ve really gotten into Left4Dead over the past week. I’ve been intrigued by the game since its original unveiling years ago, but I put off its purchase until I had some time to really dig into it. It’s been a fantastic, um, excavation.

No game has as effectively evoked a sense of cooperation as Left4Dead. You find out very quickly (and bloodily) that you need to stick with your mates (be they human or AI). Some of the gameplay scenarios in which you must rely on assistance are contrived, but I understand why Valve felt it necessary to really emphasize teamwork. Being a reliable and contributing part of your group is vital to success, and I find that a very refreshing concept.

Left4Dead isn’t gorgeous, though the game manages to run at a fast clip with only intermittent lag. The levels aren’t terribly diverse, either – you’re emptying clip after glorious clip into zombie hoards, and, well… that’s about it. Still, the entire package is wrapped in such a sense of gleeful mayhem, from the marketing (“It’s the zombie apocalypse. Bring friends.”) to the pre-match loading screen (see below), that I’ll be playing this game for months to come.

No Mercy

Predictions: NPD January 2009

NPD video game sales data for January 2009 will be released this Thursday.

Predictions

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

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

Wii: 600k ( 150k | -63.24 )
360: 300k ( 75k | –55.14% )
PS3: 220k ( 55k | –27.25% )
PS2: 116k ( 29k | –29.61% )
NDS: 480k ( 120k | –61.78% )
PSP: 212k ( 53k | –37.05% )

Notes regarding my predictions:

  • Though the numbers for January will be a lot smaller than November and December, the general picture of the industry in early 2009 will be very similar to what it looked like at the end of 2008.
  • I’m anticipating that Nintendo will have rectified the supply issues that impaired NDS and Wii in January 2008.
  • Likewise, I expect that Microsoft will provide more supply than they did in January 2008.
  • PS3, PSP, and PS2 will see a weaker start to this year than last year.

Actual sales data from The NPD Group will be released on Thursday, February 8th after market close (4:00 PM).

Chock Full

I’m intrigued by EA’s recent announcements (all of them Wii related). Dead Space is coming to Nintendo’s console sometime this year, and though I wasn’t particularly intrigued with the recently released 360 title (the demo didn’t grab me), EA’s plans to take the IP in a different direction are worth considering. EA did not have a great quarter financially (over 600 million in the red, though some of that was due to restructuring), and while new properties like Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge were critically acclaimed, the market’s reception has been icy. I don’t doubt that EA is wondering how those titles would have fared on Wii, especially in light of the console’s decidedly meager holiday lineup.

Riccitiello (EA CEO): “Wii is the market leader–they’re getting half of our emphasis in terms of SKU [title] count.” Games like Boom Blox 2 (with a greater online focus!), Tennis (Wii Motion Plus?), Dead Space, and Wii Fitness Game (untitled) show that they’re definitely putting a greater emphasis on the platform.

Other publishers will follow EA’s example. The trend has already happened in Japan, where top shelf franchises like Monster Hunter and Dragon Quest have made the jump to Wii. As we head into the Spring, expect to see similar recommitments to Nintendo by other major companies. Wii is just selling too well to ignore, and software sales in particular are trending upward. With the Motion Plus accessory due out in the first half of the year, I’m excited to see what new things are in store.