Friday, April 21, 2006

NPD Sales Data

This is interesting (from Gamasutra):
Following yesterday's announcement that March 2006 U.S. game software sales were $499 million last month, down 8 percent from March 2005, when titles such as Gran Turismo 4 helped drive more significant sales, further data released by NPD has helped illuminate specific titles.

As far as charting specific game sales, it was revealed that, at least by dollar amount spent, Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts II was the most popular North American game in March. However, the game was closely followed by notable Xbox 360 titles Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter and Oblivion, and then by Criterion and Electronic Arts' Black for PlayStation 2.

Notably languishing a little further down the chart was EA's The Godfather, however - the top SKU, for PlayStation 2, made No. 10 in the charts, just above the Guitar Hero bundle at No.11.

There's lots of good, strange stuff in there. First, the PS2 is dead.

Dead, dead, dead.

Let me get this straight. Sony has an installed base in North America of over 40 million units, and the Xbox 360 has maybe 2 million, which means that the 360's installed base is five percent of the PS2. But two of the top three best-selling games in March were 360 games? Ouch. And eight of the top twenty titles across all platforms were 360 games.

So when you hear analysts saying that the PS2 is still going to be well-supported for years because of the size of the installed base, ignore them. That base means nothing if those people stop buying games, or if the market is so saturated with new titles that there's almost no way for a single game to stand out. As a developer, you might well be able to make more money releasing a low-budget, solid game via the Xbox Live Marketplace than you could releasing it on the PS2 platform.

Those sales numbers are certainly going to be skewed to some degree by the higher unit cost of 360 titles. But it also shows that if you make a great game, people are willing to pay $59.95 for it.

What they're not willing to do, though, is pay that for a crappy game, which is why that price point will never hold. And it's also why there are going to be some games that drag studios down with them.

Here's the other item that leaps out like a wet fish to the face: The Godfather, which was supposed to be a gigantic hit for EA, is instead a catastrophe. The top selling SKU of the game finished ONE spot ahead of Guitar Hero?


So let me get this straight: The Godfather had a development budget that was probably fifty times (or more) what Guitar Hero had to work with. It had every game magazine in the country writing glowing previews of the game. It had EA's marketing muscle. And it barely outsells a game that was released over four months ago?


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