Wednesday, July 07, 2010

May NPD: Free Is Not Free

First off, the numbers:
Wii: 334,800
360: 194,600
PS3: 154,500

Last year:
Wii: 289,500
360: 175,000
PS3: 131,000

Let's look at the PS3 price cut in August of last year (from $399 to $299) in terms of year over year sales increases. The first month is September of 2009 (the first full month of the price cut), and we continue forward until May of 2010 (the last entry).

Sony should hope that 17% number is an aberration, because if it isn't, their price cut of $100 will be netting them diddly squat only nine months later. I'm sure that's not what they were expecting.

Also, there's this disquieting note  from SCEA's Patrick Seybold:
While tight inventory had an impact on sales numbers in recent months, we are now beginning to experience greater availability of product...

Hmm. So inventory was previously constrained, now has "greater availability," and that was worth 23,500 units compared to last year?

In combination, the 17% increase and the additional inventory availability should raise eyebrows. It's not, seemingly, but it should.

Microsoft is claiming that the new 360 Slim is causing "unprecedented demand," which is marketing bullshit for "one more unit than last year." Just kidding--the new unit and the price cuts for existing models should indeed increase demand--but marketing hyperbole gets tired. Unprecedented for what--June?

Look, Sony and Microsoft both have problems this fall. The game line-ups are underwhelming, and they're seemingly both counting on their motion control products to shit unicorns and rainbows.

Oh, and Sony wants 3D to shit unicorns and rainbows, too.

They're also both in the "Hey! It's perfect!" phase of their marketing these products, but underneath, there are issues. Microsoft, in particular, has a serious problem with Kinect that they're doing everything they can to parse. As an example, Joystiq has a statement from a "Microsoft representative" that very explicitly addresses the issue of whether people can use Kinect while sitting down:
Kinect can be used while sitting when an experience is developed with sitting in mind.

Oh, wait--did I say "explicitly addressing"? I meant "didn't address a damned thing." WTF does that even mean?

There's more:
As for previously revealed Kinect applications that are being developed with a seated user in mind, Microsoft pointed to navigating the Dashboard, along with using the ESPN, Zune and Video Kinect apps as "experiences where we expect people to be sitting."

That's promising. Navigating the Dashboard and watching videos. That sounds an awful lot like a non-denial denial when it comes to games. Don't you think that if Microsoft could point to even ONE game in development that allowed players to sit, they would?

Microsoft's "answer" has a gigantic stink that isn't going away, and it's a problem. One of the nice things about the Wiimote is that in most games, you don't have to be standing if you don't want to. Maybe it's less impressive than Kinect, but it's also far more functional and flexible.

That's why Sony copied it for Move.

I haven't seen anyone do a direct comparison of Move versus the Wiimote with MotionPlus showing a significant advantage in capabilities for Move. Maybe it does, but having used MotionPlus, I can say that, subjectively, it's "pretty damn accurate," and I wonder how many people would be able to detect a degree of accuracy beyond that.

Sony's also banking on 3D, but there's an issue there as well. Processing a second image to create the stereoscopic effect isn't free in terms of CPU processing. This Digital Foundry article does a nice job with the details, but basically, 3D games of any complexity are going to run in either lower resolution or lower framerates than the 2D version. Sony developers are claiming that "the impact on performance can be mitigated if the base engine itself is designed for 3D," but I'm not sure how, and I think that's a questionable claim.

At least Sony supports the HDMI 1.3a specification, which basically doubles the bandwidth of 1.2. That extra headroom makes 3D possible, at least, even if resolution/framerate sacrifices need to be made. The 360 though, supports HMDI 1.2, not 1.3.

Amusingly, Microsoft says that 3D is an an interesting technology of the future. Yes, for them it is, because they certainly can't do it now.

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