Posted by: seanmalstrom | March 14, 2014

February 2014 NPD: Where is the Generation Over Generation Analysis?

Ahh, the February 2014 NPD numbers.

Those inside the Game Industry are very, very excited. They were very worried about Xbox One’s poorer showing in January. Now with February’s numbers, they are happy that Xbox One won’t be a Wii U.

PS4: 258,000 / 0.9 = 286.7K
Xbox One: 258K
Xbox 360: 114K
Wii U: Nearly 82.5K

I love this paragraph from the link above:

As always, these figures only represent physical items sold at brick-and-mortar stores. The NPD does not include digital and online sales in its monthly report, which is why it’s best to view these numbers as a snapshot of a much larger picture.

This paragraph would not have been written if the retail software sales weren’t down around 9%. This is a dishonest way for the Game Industry to cherrypick conclusions. They will never, ever admit software being ‘down’ or ‘bad’ because they can always say ‘but there are online sales which aren’t accounted in the numbers’.

Minecraft is such a great game as it destroys the veil of lies we are seeing from the Game Industry. Why in the hell are Minecraft retail sales so high on the Xbox 360? The game has carved a permanent spot on the top ten list. If you add in online sales of Minecraft, it will have a higher number of course. The truth is that a high selling game will sell more in retail AND in online sales. Software retail is still very much a barometer of software popularity. The point is this: digital sales hover around 10% of the retail game sales. When a game doesn’t perform well at retail, it is not an excuse for someone to say “that doesn’t matter” because of ‘digital sales’. If a game bombs at retail, it likely is bombing in digital sales as well.

If hardware wasn’t physical but had ‘digital transmissions’ (let’s pretend 3d printers could make our game consoles), you would hear reporting that the hardware sales are ‘more than’ what they actually are. Since hardware isn’t digitized yet, they can’t pretend those numbers are something they aren’t.

The Game Industry Logic going around this month is that “Declining software doesn’t matter because that ‘declining software’ is from the prior generation consoles. This generation is seeing a much faster transition period.” But you cannot apply this logic to speak about the software, it must speak about the hardware as well. If this logic is true, then the ‘faster transition’ means the hardware sales of Xbox One and PS4 are worrisome. If Gen 7 -> Gen 8 software decline doesn’t matter because of ‘faster hardware transition’, then you must also say that the February 2014 hardware numbers aren’t that strong. Let’s say the transition is ‘normal’ for the purpose of example. Then that would mean the software is down and that hardware is doing OK. But if you say transition is ‘faster than normal’, then software would be OK and hardware sales would be down. This is why you can’t trust what the Game Industry says. They lie to themselves to make themselves feel better. As absurd as that seems, it is exactly what is going on. (Gen 7 hardware is at the bottom of this post.)

This is largely ceremonial at this point, but here goes: The best selling console of Generation 8 will be the PlayStation 4. It will not be close. Xbox One cannot sell outside of English speaking countries. Wii U is selling worse than the Gamecube. (Although I wonder what the 3DS numbers are…) This is why you wait until at least February NPD to have a clear idea of the sales patterns. People assumed January NPD that Xbox One wasn’t going to sell in America. But January NPD, especially after a launch, is always squirrely. It’s better to wait until the month after.

It can be argued that the PlayStation 4’s supply limitation is boosting the Xbox One’s numbers. When people go to the store, they find Xbox Ones there but no PS4s. PS4 is losing sales from the limited supply. Since Xbox One is not that different from the PS4, Xbox One could be gaining from the PS4 limitation. This is completely unlike the Wii phenomenon of Generation 7 where the no supply of Wii didn’t drive people to buy a Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. Why would it? The Wii was so different. But since Xbox One and PS4 are similar, one’s supply limitation is the other’s gain.

The PS4 supply limitation will not last much longer. As I type this entire post, the PlayStation 4 has been available to buy at Amazon. I recall with the Wii, that it just sold out in seconds. However, we don’t know how much supply of PS4 there is. Maybe there are boatlods of PS4 that is selling a ton but isn’t selling out because the supply is so massive. It’s impossible to know what the level of PS4 demand is in America until supply meets demand. It is also impossible to know what the level of Xbox One demand is until PS4 supply meets PS4 demand. I remain suspicious that some of those Xbox One sales are people who couldn’t get a PS4.

To show you just how pathetic some of the people are in the Game Industry (at least on the American side), they are waiting with baited breath for the Xbox 360 to outsell the Wii in the United States. The reason why this is pathetic is because the Xbox 360 has two additional years on the United States market than the Wii does. The Xbox 360 was released a year before the Wii and the Wii successor came out a year before the Xbox 360’s successor. Worldwide, Xbox 360 is still behind over 20 million units. If the people are going to make some sort of deal that the 360 , with two additional years of market time, outsold the Wii in 360’s only viable market, then we might as well declare the Gamecube outselling the original Xbox worldwide.

And I hate to be ‘that guy’, but the Xbox 360 is famous for its hardware numbers. It’s not uncommon to hear Xbox 360 households go through three or four hardware problems. 360 might sell more hardware units than the Wii overall in the United States, but the Wii will still have a larger installed base.

Nintendo’s collapse, both in home and handheld console, is much more attributable of losing the kid market. What are kids playing these days? They are playing Minecraft on the Xbox 360. They have also become the primary Call of Duty players. Nintendo’s aesthetic is no longer being seen as ‘kiddie’ as it was during the Gamecube Era but more as ‘weird Japanese crap’. The Classic Mario and Zelda games have been integrated into American culture. However, the modern Mario and Zelda games are seen as outsiders. Mario in a Cat Suit seems ‘creepy’, and the Wind Waker graphics still suck. While Nintendo’s problems this generation are many, one being missed is how Nintendo is designing its games for a Japanese audience. With the Wii, this was not the case. Twilight Princess, which sold very well in the West but not so well in Japan, was designed in response to the West’s hatred for Wind Waker’s aesthetics. “We can’t have the game not sell well in Japan!” Nintendo says. So they make their games try to appeal to Japan. Since Japan no longer seems as interested in video games, Nintendo games now don’t sell in both Japan and the West as opposed to just Japan. Gamers are interested in games, not ‘Japanese culture’. In the 80s, many gamers had no idea that Mario and Zelda were made in Japan. Today, with things like that atrocious Tingle, Nintendo games have an ‘in your face’ attitude about declaring they are from Japan. The Wii U comes across as a freaky Japanese device with bizarre Japanese games (hello Wonderful 101) that makes people run away in terror.

Note how there is no generation over generation analysis? Let’s find out why. Here are Generation 7’s numbers from February 2007:

NPD North American hardware sales — February ’07

  • Nintendo DS – 485K
  • Nintendo Wii – 335K
  • Sony PS2 – 295K
  • Microsoft Xbox 360 – 228K
  • Sony PSP – 176K
  • Nintendo GBA – 136K
  • Sony PS3 – 127K
  • Nintendo GameCube – 24K

NPD North American software sales — Feburary ’07

  1. Crackdown (Xbox 360) – Microsoft – 427K
  2. Wii Play w/ remote (Wii) – Nintendo – 371K
  3. Diddy Kong Racing (DS) – Nintendo – 262K
  4. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii) – Nintendo – 130K
  5. Guitar Hero 2 w/ guitar (PS2) – Activision – 130K
  6. Gears of War (Xbox 360) – Microsoft – 119K
  7. Major League Baseball 2K7 (Xbox 360) – Take-Two – 113K
  8. Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (Xbox 360) – Capcom – 111K
  9. WarioWare: Smooth Moves (Wii) – Nintendo – 109K
  10. NBA Street Homecourt (Xbox 360) – Electronic Arts – 102K

Remember that the Xbox 360 had already been out for over a year in 2007. The console launched in late 2005.

What is obvious from looking at that list is how much larger the overall universe of game consoles was. Sony may not have been doing well with the PS3, but the PS2 was still moving a massive amount of units given its age, and it being obsolete.

Is this generation transitioning faster or is it that the Xbox One and PS4 aren’t stupidly retarded as Xbox 360 and PS3 were? The HD Twins of Generation 7 were ridiculously expensive, prone to constantly break down, and weren’t ready for the mass market. This is why Generation 7 was so long.

As I finish this post, I see that the PlayStation 4 is still available at Amazon. The supply of PS4 should be catching up to demand fairly soon. Didn’t Sony say April? That could be right.

Still no change from my expectations of Generation 8. Depending on whether you want to say the transition is ‘faster’ than normal or not, either the software sales are down or hardware sales are down. Take your pick. Generation 8 is not showing healthy numbers. You don’t see new market growth anywhere. You don’t even see a holding. Even if you exclude everything Nintendo from the universe of gaming, everything is down. This is in sync with the rest of the nation’s economic numbers. Retail is down everywhere. Why should we be surprised that retail is down for gaming too?



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