Thursday, June 11, 2009

Console Post of the Week: May NPD

First off, let's look at the NPD numbers for May:

Last year:

That's another soft month. Yes, May 2008 is a "tough compare," but at some point, "tough compare" becomes "lack of great games."

Here's an updated graph of rolling 12-month sales in the U.S. for each console (and, when available, past consoles as well). Please note that the first data point is twelve months after launch:

See that orange fish hook? That's the Wii. Maybe MotionPlus will help, but Nintendo's first-party lineup for holiday 2009 looks very anemic, and I think Nintendo is starting to wobble.

On the plus side, developers are releasing more fully-featured products on the Wii, and in greater numbers, than they have in the past. The Wii version of Tiger Woods 10 features both superior control (using MotionPlus, and it's extremely well-implemented) and twice as many courses (well, almost--29 versus 15) as the 360 or PS3 versions. So it's not all bad news for Nintendo, but the Wii is no longer the craze that it was only six months ago.

Let's move on.

The longer Sony waits to announce the inevitable price cut for the PS3, the better the chances that it will be a $100 cut, not $50. It's been two and a half years now, and the PS3 is still priced at $399. That's incredible, really, and it's also incredible that after two and a half years, the installed base of the PS3 in the US is barely HALF that of the 360.

How many people would have predicted that back in 2006, even after Sony announced the launch price?

Look, it's entirely possible that the PS3 is never going to catch the 360 in total installed base in the U.S., and if that sounds crazy, just look at the numbers. The 360 has averaged about 400,000 units a month in 2007 and 2008, and I bet it's in the same ballpark this year.

If the PS3 averages 600,000 units a month from tomorrow going forward, it would take them over three years to catch the 360. Yes, 360 sales will eventually slow, but they still have room to make price cuts for at least another two years before they reach that point.

How many years did the PS2, the most popular system in history, sell an average of over 600,000 units a month? One. One!

Clearly, the PS3 is not the PS2, and never will be. But for the PS3 to catch the 360, no matter what the analysts say, it will have to average PS2 numbers and better for the next three years--at least. I just don't see that happening.

I saw some news today on Natal, or "Noobtal," as it should be renamed, apparently. Here's what Shane Kim told Kotaku during E3:
Conceptually, the launch of Natal will be like the launch of Xbox 360. It's going to be that big. We're not just going to ship it when the hardware and software are ready. We have to make sure that there are enough content experiences that are really good. That's similar to how you would think of the launch of a new console. It's got to have a great launch line-up.

So far, that sounds great. But then he adds this:
We're not focused on this generation's casual gamers or even PS2 people who haven't upgraded. This is about the 60% of households were a video game console doesn't exist… the problem is that the controller is a barrier for some people and now with Project Natal we completely eliminate that.

I don't know about you, but that makes Natal sound like the ultimate noob device to me. Unfortunately.

In a business sense, it's entirely logical. Why pursure the hardcore when the hardcore already own 360s? It makes far more sense to dedicate 90% (or 100%) of the resources to targeting the great unwashed.

It's great for Microsoft. It's just not good for us.

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