Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Console Post Of The Week: December NPD And 2010 Review

December NPD numbers:
Wii: 2,360,000
360: 1,860,000
PS3: 1,210,000

Numbers for 2010 NPD:
Wii: 7,051,600
360: 6,753,689
PS3: 4,351,800

Year-over-year growth:
360: 41.57%
PS3: 0.40%
Wii: -26.50%

Those year-over-year growth numbers are dramatic, aren't they? Here's the twelve month rolling sales graph, which is equally so:

That's certainly easy to understand (and if you're wondering, the 360 line is longer because it was launched a year earlier). Oh, and if you're wondering what PS2 numbers were at the same point in its lifespan as the 360, the 12 month rolling sales were 5.03 million. So, incredibly, at this point in its lifespan, the 360 is outselling the PS2 in the U.S. PS2 sales were much more front-loaded--its graph more closely resembles the Wii, albeit with lower numbers--but still, that's surprising.

So 2010 is finished, and it's easy to see who succeeded and who didn't. What's going to happen in 2011?

Well, first off, everyone is going to be bitching about the low number and quality of the Kinect releases. Remember how everyone complained constantly about the quality of Wii releases? Well, here comes Part 2, and guess what? There won't be any highly polished Nintendo games to prop up Kinect. So there won't be enough games, and the games that do get released are generally going to be savaged by reviewers.

In a financial sense, is that really going to matter? No. Count Leonard McPherson's Dance Party Detective Hunt will sell three million copies, and all the critics and analysts will be baffled. That money, though, will go on the books with just as much value as the money that's grossed from a 95-rated game.

I think the smartest single thing Microsoft did with Kinect was allow it to be hacked. It's not only created a generous amount of buzz, it's also enabled Microsoft to see what some really, really bright people can do with the sensors. For Microsoft, it's research that costs them absolutely nothing. And with Microsoft apparently committed to releasing the SDK for PC, that vitality should continue

Next, the Wii has had an epic, epic run--it's easily the most financially successful console in history, and in some ways, the most fun--but it's clearly over. There will still be another price cut, and that will bump sales for a while, but for Nintendo, it's time to focus on the next console. I don't think it will come out this year, unfortunately, with the 3DS launching soon, but I would be shocked if they're not teasing the new console by the end of this year, with a launch in 2012.

Can they duplicate the Wii's success? I don't see how, and I don't see how their next console can be as innovative, either. But I didn't see the 3DS coming, either.

I don't know what to say about Sony. Every time they don't reach the bar, they just lower the bar. The PS3 has been spectacularly unsuccessfuly financially, and in a single generation, Sony has squandered an overwhelming position of dominance in the industry for third place status.

In a gaming sense, it's not like the PS3 has been a total dud. Sony has done a decent job supporting it, and they have some interesting franchises. Someone could own a PS3 as their only gaming console and have plenty of games to choose from. It's just that every time Sony proudly announces "here's the game that's really going to make the PS3 take off", sales spike for one or two months and then go right back to where they were.

Look, the PS3 isn't going to "take off." They've had four years. It's not happening.

Right now, though, they don't have a choice. They've sunk so many untold billions into researching and developing the PS3 that they have to keep flogging it for the next 3-5 years, hoping that sales have a very long tail.

Collectively, that means that 2011, on the console side, is going to be relatively drab. Microsoft doesn't need a new console, Nintendo doesn't want to compete with the 3DS launch, and Sony can't afford a new console. So it seems like the only points of interest this year will be price cuts--certainly, Sony and Nintendo will have them.

Besides that, though, we wait.

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