John Lucas Avatar Posted on 12/18/2010 by John Lucas

Kinect helps revive the industry from its 8-month slump and makes this the best November in videogame history.

Written by John Lucas (editor-at-large)

Black Friday!

Fall is when the sun falls earlier than it used to. By November, near the end of this autumn time, the nights become longer than the days. Kids wake up for school before the sunrise and do their homework after the sunset. Darker and darker it gets before Black Friday, the marketers’ perversion of the holiday season. Hearts grow as cold as the temperatures as shoppers thanklessly trample their competition for trinkets in the aftermath of Thanksgiving. Witnessing such madness, you may start to wonder “When will humanity fall?”

Well, humanity certainly didn’t let the videogame biz fall as we see from this month’s figures from The NPD Group, Inc. The long slide since April finally made a complete and total turnaround with the craze of the after-Thanksgiving sales. November 2010 became the best-selling November in videogame history beating the tremendous November 2008. In every category, there was improvement over the accomplishments of 2009. Well, not exactly EVERY category as we’ll soon find out. Watch out! Don’t fall before the crowd! Prop yourself up with these guesstimates from the NPD.

Nintendo’s DS beat the violent mob to the front of the line with (whoa) 1,500,000 diversionary standards sold in the month of World Peace Day. In the month of the October Revolution, DS Three sold 342,000 handhelds of all shades and sizes showing more than a QUADRUPLING of output! You can never count out the DS even in these times. DS Lite, DSi, and DSi XL continue to uphold Nintendo’s videogame empire with each color and configuration they come in (including special editions with Mario Kart DS inside). While this figure falls slightly behind November 2009’s 1,700,000 total, it goes to show that the platform is still strong even with the imminent arrival of its successor, the 3DS. What will December’s tally be? Can it break its own record one more time?

Microsoft’s XBox 360 took the last of the big screen TVs with (wow) 1,370,000 kinetic konnections sold in the month of World Hello Day. In the month of the first World Series, Professor X sold 325,000 Halos of Duty showing over QUADRUPLE its previous amount. At long last it is here. After billions spent, Project Natal has been realized. Introducing Kinect. Microsoft’s plan to unseat Wii from the throne continues to succeed as its unique motion control device makes the headlines. But first things first. It is now 6 months in a row that the 360 has topped the home console hierarchy. It is 6 months in a row that they have topped the once-invincible Wii (7 times this year!). And with this month’s total, for the first time ever, the 360 has outsold the Wii within the year-to-date! It is also the first time the 360 has broken the 7-digit mark outside of December (obliterating last November’s 819,500)! Unbelieveable!

With the wow-factor of Kinect, the corseted re-debut of the 360, and strong blockbuster titles, the 360 could end up outselling the Wii for all of 2010 (a first!)! Any possible XBox Live price rise backlash is muted by these amazing sales. While Kinect’s titles and Halo: Reach don’t seem to register on NPD’s new-fangled charts, the 360 is no doubt on a momentum train right now. For the immediate future, Wii has a worthwhile challenger in America. Suspense has returned to this console race. Get your popcorn ready.

Nintendo’s Wii waited patiently in line as it sold (hoo) 1,270,000 revolutions in red in Native American Heritage Month. In the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, Wii sold 232,000 color absolutes showing over QUINTUPLE its previous output! Thank God for Mario! That chubby little plumber saved Nintendo’s bacon once again. Colored in Mario red, the Super Mario 25th Anniversary edition of Wii (packed with both Wii Sports and New Super Mario Bros. Wii) helped jolt the troubled console back to life. Looks like it took a little longer for Wii to wake up from its “summer slumber” this time, eh?

This number is not only significant because it jumpstarted Wii’s lukewarm performance in the market. It’s also significant because the total is actually HIGHER than last November’s (1,260,000) despite that lukewarm luster-lack. Everybody’s preaching doom as if Wii’s on its last legs given the recent rise of the new XBox 360. It was never doomed, it just needed some love and attention from its maker. Armed with Donkey Kong Countries, Epic Mickeys, Goldeneyes, and Just Dances, Wii will fight for its 4th year of home console domination against the surging 360. If it can make these kinds of numbers now, can it make or even break its outstanding record from last December? Wii will be watching.

Sony’s PlayStation 3 got lost in the crowd with (hmm?) 530,000 underground movements sold in Movember. In Blue October, PS Tri sold 250,000 mood ringed Move things showing merely double its output. Yow. What happened to last year’s console phoenix? Unlike the 360’s remodel, last year’s PS3 remodel doesn’t show any lasting power. Sure it’s doing better than it was in its previous existence (before the redesign) but last November’s total was 710,400. This is well below that and that’s not good when your home console competitors are improving over last year’s results.

Sony cannot rely on the PS3’s worldwide numbers overcoming the 360. America is still the biggest money market in the world and as long as the 360 triumphs in America, the PS3 will always be compromised. They had ‘em on the ropes before the 360 transformed but now the 360 is taking it to the Wii. Momentum is crucial in this extra-innings game and Sony needs a new strategy to realize that 10-year plan. Perhaps the 360/Kinect will run into a wall next year and the PS3/Move can capitalize in the long term. Could we have a new tortoise and hare scenario? In the meantime, even with the system-defining Gran Turismo 5 the PS3 plays the underdog role once again. Hopefully, slow and steady really will win the race.

Sony’s PlayStation Portable got trampled to death selling (wha?) 288,000 handhelds from the dead in the month of Día de los Muertos. In Halloween, the console zombie sold 75,000 portable poltergeists showing nearly QUADRUPLE its output! What in the hell. This zombie’s still hanging around? And actually has the nerve to sell 6 digits? It almost beat last November’s 293,900 which is amazing considering how low it’s been selling for the past who knows months. Even the undead come to life when Black Fridays counteract the effects of Black Tuesdays.

Sony’s PlayStation 2 watched the merchant madness from the afterlife as it sold (ha) 88,000 monuments of Ken in the month of Universal Children’s Day. In the month of the first Million Man March, PS Two sold…uh wait a minute. This console is DEAD! Another one! PSP must have taken me seriously last month when I told him to find the PS2 and get lost. Looks like they found their way into my NPD report. Well, PS2 did it. They made it to one more holiday season (its 11th!). It will certainly be the last. One hell of a run though.

Herded together, the U.S. videogame industry massed a knee-buckling $2.95 billion ($2.99 billion including PC portion) in total sales for November, a 9% moonrise over last November. Of this (gulp) nearly 3 billion-dollar figure, total hardware sales gleamed up 2% to $1.08 billion while total software sales shimmered up 4% to $1.46 billion. At the same time, total accessory sales eclipsed up 69% to $413.3 million. There is no doubting what is behind that amazing accessory leap. That is Kinect in the driver’s seat of that revenue ride. Unfortunately, no specific breakdowns in sales of Kinects or Moves (in bundles or individually) from NPD.

For the year-to-date, the industry dispersed down 5% to $13.46 billion ($14.73 billion including PC portion). Maybe, just maybe this year can match up with 2009. Keep hope alive, keep hope alive. And keep in mind that all percentages refer to year-to-year comparisons between November 2010 and November 2009.

The main story in the games tales is Call of Duty: Black Ops. The 360 version sold the most, of course, but with NPD’s new system there’s no way to count sales by individual platforms. That said, with all platforms combined Black Ops bested its predecessor Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for top-selling, top-grossing launch in videogame history (also 25% of November 2010’s software sales by itself). It’s a spot seemingly taken each year seen by previous record holders 2008’s Grand Theft Auto IV and 2007’s Halo 3. With this accomplishment, it seems like NPD’s multiplatform charts would deliver a virtual 360 shutout. Yet Wii and the PS3 refuse to be drowned out with its assorted dancing games, jungle platformers, driving simulators, and exercise stimulators. No fear, no surrender! Now as autumn begins to fall away into winter, crowd together around the enlightening charts below. Rays of light in a terrifying darkness.

NPD’s Top Reported Hardware Sales in November

Nintendo DS – 1,500,000*
Microsoft XBox 360 – 1,370,000**
Nintendo Wii – 1,270,000*
Sony PlayStation 3 – 530,000†
Sony PlayStation Portable – 288,000‡
Sony PlayStation 2 – 88,000‡

Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter

NPD’s Top Ten Combined Software Sales in November

01. Call of Duty: Black Ops (X360, PS3, Wii, PC, DS) – 8,400,000
02. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (X360, PS3)
03. Just Dance 2 (Wii)
04. Madden NFL 11 (X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP)
05. Fable III (X360)
06. Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)
07. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (PS3, X360, Wii, PC)
08. Gran Turismo 5 (PS3)
09. NBA 2K11 (X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, PC)
10. Wii Fit Plus (Wii)

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