Nintendo hardware sales are almost obscene, five Wii titles make the top ten, and Guitar Hero: World Tour manages to chart the month after it launched.
Are you holding your breath to find out how the game industry did in the all-important November sales month leading up to Christmas? Exhale. The latest numbers suggest that games are doing just fine. And so far, Nintendo's optimism in the face of an economic recession seems more than justified.
November 2008 U.S. Hardware Sales
Wii – 2.04m
DS – 1.57m
XBox 360 – 836k
PSP – 421k
PS3 – 378k
PS2 – 206k
In November 2007, NPD's data indicated Wii sales of 981,000. That has increased dramatically and doubled to 2.04 million units sold year-over-year for the Wii's third holiday season on the market. This report blows analyst expectations out of the water, with most observers anticipating sales of around 1.4 million units only. Even two years after the Wii’s launch, its success is still wildly unpredictable and unprecedented. In comparison, the highest November sales reported for the PlayStation 2 were 1.3 million in 2002.
But consistent sellouts have become an ever-present part of the Wii story. What this month's numbers suggest beyond that is that Nintendo has carried through on increasing their supply of Wii Consoles. They also suggest that Microsoft's XBox360 Arcade price drop below the price of the Wii hasn't had an impact on the furor for Nintendo's proprietary game player. And finally, they throw weight behind recent positive statements by Nintendo executives in the face of mounting concerns about the current recession's effects on game sales as well as the new consumers that Nintendo is luring. In the face of such doubt, the Wii has managed to blow last year's November sales leader out of the water.
Which is to say, the Wii switched places with the Nintendo DS.
Actually, Nintendo's other little-console-that-could still put up a roaring 1.57 million units in sales, similar to 2007 sales of 1.53 million. Nintendo's estimates have suggested that the DS may be at the peak of its lifecycle and that sales may start declining, but it's hard to forecast doom and gloom for a handheld that continues to perform so healthily. Nintendo recently opted to postpone the release of the DSi hardware until next year, a move that was interpreted by many to enable Nintendo to go as long as possible without cannibalizing their own sales. If true, the decision seems to be paying off in spades.
Outside of Nintendo, the other consoles saw very modest gains, or even exhibited losses. Without the growth from the increased Wii numbers, it seems that the industry may have posted negative growth over last year. Microsoft's XBox 360, helped by a $200 Arcade SKU pricetag and big holiday game releases, gained 66k in sales over last year's numbers. It posted respectable sales of 836k. But all three of Sony's entries seem to be experiencing less sales than last year, with the PS3, PSP, and again PS2 all posting year-over-year declines. Faced with declining performance like this, Sony will only feel more pressure for PS3 price cuts despite the extraordinary lengths the company has already gone to in order to reduce the cost of their console.
Approximate Lifetime-to-Date U.S. Hardware Sales
PS2 – 42.94m
DS – 24.46m
Wii – 15.39m
PSP – 13.22m
XBox360 – 12.44m
PS3 – 6.06m
With December traditionally an even bigger month for sales, the mind boggles at what numbers Nintendo's hardware may post. However, at this point it seems that analysts may need just one thing to accurately predict Wii and DS sales: Nintendo's own shipment numbers. It is widely assumed that whatever Nintendo ships, Nintendo sells. In December 2002, the PlayStation 2 managed to sell 2.7 million consoles, and in a month we'll see if Nintendo has managed to supplant it in the record books.
November 2008 U.S. Top Ten Software Sales
Gears of War 2 (X360) – 1.56m
Call of Duty: World at War (X360) – 1.41m
Wii Play (Wii) – 796k
Wii Fit (Wii) – 697k
Mario Kart Wii (Wii) – 637k
Call of Duty: World at War (PS3) – 597k
Guitar Hero: World Tour (Wii) – 475k
Left for Dead (X360) – 410k
Resistance 2 (PS3) – 385k
Wii Music (Wii) – 297k
Approximate Lifetime-to-Date U.S. Software Sales
Wii Play – 7.92m
Mario Kart Wii – 4.01m
Wii Fit – 3.53m
This month new titles on the competing consoles take their place amongst the top ten. Gears of War 2 commanded the top spot, Call of Duty: World at War showed up twice (The Wii version didn't make the top ten), and Resistance 2 and Left for Dead both joined the party.
Wii games took up an entire half of the top ten charts. Wii Play has somehow charted with consistently high sales numbers ever since its release in February 2007. It may be poised to sell well for the duration of the Wii's lifetime, laying permanent claim to a top sales position over several years.
Wii Fit has also continued to sell extraordinarily well despite being a new property and bearing a substantial $90 price tag. With American sales over 3.53 million units and still growing, Wii Fit has the potential end up not just another huge title for a Nintendo, but one of the biggest titles of this generation, period.
Another impressive display of strength comes from Nintendo's Mario Kart Wii, which has refused to drop from the top ten charts since its debut in April. It's sales performances like this that will allow Nintendo to launch games at any time during the year, deftly side-stepping a holiday crunch of new titles.
A third party Wii entry comes from Guitar Hero: World Tour, which barely failed to make it onto the top ten in any form last month. That it's the Wii version that has finally charted goes to show Guitar Hero's traditional strength on Nintendo's console. Every month that Rock Band 2 doesn't come to the Wii just gives Activision Blizzard more time to build up strength in the music genre.
Finally, Nintendo's Wii Music rounds out the selection. Though failing to chart after its late October release, Nintendo's music software is working to prove itself to critics and doubters with a respectable 297,000 in sales. The NPD's Anita Frazier attributed this to "a testament to the power of a comprehensive marketing campaign and the very strong brand equity that the Wii platform enjoys." The real question for Wii Music will be the extent to which it can post healthy sales month after month and demonstrate true acceptance by consumers beyond the hype of its launch period. Only then will it be seen to rest comfortably beside Nintendo's other Wii series games, which have seen evergreen sales.
Astute observers will notice that NPD tracks PC software separately. However, Frazier made sure to point out in commentary that "Wrath of the Lich King sold over 1.4 million units in the U.S. during its debut month at retail." The success of the PC game will certainly work alongside Guitar Hero: World Tour to keep Activision Blizzard's sales performance strong.
Despite these sales, it's important to note that many other big holiday games have failed to make the top ten. Nintendo's own Animal Crossing: City Folk is one such absence. Although, like Wii Music, it may post strong sales down the line. Also absent is the PS3's Little Big Planet and Mirror’s Edge, and the Xbox 360's Banjo & Kazooie game. However, with the number ten game posting sales of 297k, there's plenty of room for other games to post strong sales despite not making the list.
Overall, NPD reports software sales of $1.45 billion. This is an increase of 11% over last November's $1.31 billion in sales. In hardware, NPD reports sales of $1.21 billion, an increase of 10% year-over-year. Far from being affected by the economic recession, so far the videogame industry appears buffeted from it.
Frazier reported that "our Consumer Spending Indicator shows that video games (are) the category consumers are least likely to cut back on this holiday." In contrary to some concerns over the possible softness of Nintendo's expanded audience, Frazier also said that "certainly, the expanded audience for gaming due to the availability of a wider variety of compelling content is a strong contributor."
This report contains information from the NeoGAF Official NPD thread.