No Presents in December. Bah!
December 2011 would represent the last month of the last full year of the 7th
Generation of Home Consoles. This exciting generation started on November 22,
2005 with Microsoft’s upstart console sequel the XBox 360. Incumbent market
champion Sony sought to continue the PlayStation dynasty with its Cell-powered
PlayStation 3 set for a November 2006 release. But nearly no one expected old
Nintendo to quake the videogaming world when they began their Revolution.
Nintendo’s Wii disrupted then drowned its competition under the tidal waves of
their Blue Ocean strategy. And in the handheld fights, Nintendo’s Touch
Generations-powered DS embarrassed the gaming ghetto savior known as Sony’s
PlayStation Portable bringing forth the force of the
The market tracker known as The National Purchase Diary Group, Inc. gained an
even higher profile as they detailed the monthly scoreboard between the Big
Three. Renegade startups like VGChartz.com also got in on the sales-counting
action. Human tribal tendencies got more entrenched than ever before as we saw
the self-proclaimed “hardcore” berate and belittle the supposed “casuals”. And
this deep chasm between players was reflected in every videogaming publication
both online and in print with journalists taking sides. The evergreen vs. the
blockbuster. The new audience vs. the established audience. Versatile motion
controls vs. ‘next-gen’ HD graphics. Good clean fun vs. Game Fuel. Watching the
ups and downs and back and forths gave us endless surprises as we saw inevitable
champs become irreparable chumps. Nothing was ever certain in Generation 7.
And that uncertainty spread to those heavily counted-on yet disappointing
holiday season sales figures tallied by The NPD Group. The videogame industry
couldn’t count on Santa, Jesus, Hanukkah Harry, or even Kwanzaa Mfume to pull
out a retail miracle for the December holy days. NPD’s favorite representative
Anita Frazier offered this comment on sales situation:
“December was very rough for new physical sales of video games hardware,
software and accessories. Because of the great slate of content that came to
market during the fourth quarter, I had expected December sales to represent a
larger portion of total year sales than what occurred. This year, December
accounted for just 23% of annual sales, while the average for the past ten years
has been 28.”
Wedbush Morgan Securities mouthpiece Michael Pachter paints the picture more
vividly in this comment to the
Los Angeles Times:
“Lots of people rushed in to stores on Black Friday to buy games, but they
disappeared in the first three weeks of December. The stores were empty. They
only came back during the week just before Christmas. Consoles in particular are
way down. It's weird, but people don't seem to see them as gifts anymore…
…Consumers bought just 6.3 million consoles last month, down from 8.4 million
a year ago. That's the lowest level since 2005.”
Clearly Nintendo’s sudden abandonment of the Wii combined with the decline of
the DS and rough start of the 3DS is showing just how dependent the industry is
on the Kyoto gamemaker’s success. Nintendo has been the pole propping up this
industry tent since the beginning of this generation but who knows what’ll
happen with Wii U as they begin the 8th generation. The uncertainty continues.
But try to get a clearer picture from these NPD
guesstimates if you can.
Microsoft’s XBox 360 put the star on top of the Christmas tree with (WOW!)
over 1,700,000 duty callers sold in the month Christians celebrate the birth of
Yeshua. In the month Americans celebrate the Veterans, the Call of Duty box sold
1,700,000 first-person sureshots showing such a marginal increase it might as
well be no change. Well…can we finally say it? For the first time since its
launch, the XBox 360 has become the BEST-SELLING U.S. home console of the YEAR!
Hooray! Stymied at first by the still-dominant PlayStation 2 in 2006 then
repeatedly foiled by Wii every year since (can’t forget the upset last year!),
the 360 at last can say it commanded a year on the market. It goes without
saying that it has also become the best-selling U.S. home console of 2011 (which
was a cinch). And this month’s sales give the 360 the 2nd best monthly sales it
has ever had! But most importantly of all, 2011 was the BEST-SELLING YEAR WORLDWIDE in XBox 360 history!! Impressive!
But for all the good news on the 360 front, this month’s overall sales prove
that the 360 cannot command the leader role like Wii did. Even loaded with 3rd
party software blockbusters they could not single handedly prop up the sagging
tent of sales. If that’s not bad enough, then think of the coming future. With
Nintendo putting an abrupt end to
Generation 7.5 with Wii U, how will the 360 be able to stay relevant as the
8th generation gets underway? And how long can Microsoft wait until they deliver
their next console to match up with Wii U? Will it catch on and how long will it
take? It took the 360 years to get to this level of hardware-selling success.
Wii killed the graphics race so where does Microsoft go from here? More HD?
Kinect has proven itself NOT to be the game seller nor Wii stopper it should
have been. Being a primarily 3rd party game platform has only taken the console
only so far. Especially when all those 3rd party blockbusters couldn’t quite
match up with Nintendo’s 1st party/2nd party evergreens. And starting over with
a new machine is no guarantee they will carry over their previous success. It’s
going to be quite a dilemma for Microsoft in the next few years.
But in the meantime, Microsoft has been busy sprucing up the 360’s Dashboard.
With a new graphical overhaul, cloud storage capabilities, and enhanced
Kinect-ivity, the new 360 Dashboard offers owners lots of radio and cable TV
access along with YouTube (just now?) and go-to tabloid gossip source TMZ. And
the long-awaited ‘UFC on XBox LIVE’ feature came just in time for Christmas (and
Brock Lesnar’s crushing defeat). However, a curious development has emerged with
the introduction of My XBox Live…on Apple’s iOS?! What?! The free application
basically allows XBox Live members to pass messages to friends, design their
Avatars, and check out Achievements right on Apple’s machines! It’s one thing to
release an XBox Live Companion on a Windows Phone but to put XBox on iPhones?
Ballsy! Then putting a companion Halo Waypoint app on iOS too? Ballsier! What’s
this? New XBox Live Terms of Service forbids users from filing class action
Nintendo’s 3DS was as red-hot as Rudolph’s nose with, um…I’m not sure, sold
in the month of National Egg Nog Day. In the month of Thanksgiving Day, the
rescued 3D princess sold over 795,000 portable Marios showing unclear results.
It wasn’t just an NPD Blackout this month. It might as well have been an NPD
Eclipse! No sales number given was solid. They were either presented as “more
than such and such number” which could mean anything or deciphered from
percentages offered by shadowy analyst types.
But I have good reason to believe the 3DS outranked the Wii this month. NPD’s
Anita Frazier commented that the 3DS and DS were the only platforms to realize a
unit sales increase versus November. Keep in mind that December is a 5-week
tracking month vs. November’s 4-week one. November’s 3DS total was “more than
795,000”. Dividing the “more than 795,000” by 4, we get “more than 198,750”. Add
this weekly approximation to the original “more than 795,000” and we get “more
than 993,750”. That would be the December figure if the rate remained flat. And
we know that Frazier’s comment tells that this month’s total was MORE THAN “more
than 993,750”. With only “more than 68,250” as the difference between 3DS and
Wii, I’m pretty sure 3DS topped Wii. Especially with the power of Super Mario 3D
Land and Mario Kart 7 behind it.
Yeah let’s talk about that Mario Kart 7/Super Mario 3D Land combo, shall we?
Worldwide these 2 games have resurrected the nearly dying 3DS platform along
with the emergency price drop. Mario
Kart 7 most especially since it had only launched in December. Whether
platforming in 3D or racing on karts with hanggliders, Mario power mushroomed
the 3DS presence. Fire flowered it up, you might say. It became Australia’s
fastest-selling console in history PERIOD beating the old record set by the DS.
With the extra help of Capcom’s Monster Hunter (tri-) 3G in Japan, the 3DS has
already surpassed 4,000,000 in lifetime Japanese sales alone. That same
4,000,000 number was surpassed in America too by the end of 2011 according to
Nintendo. That little plumber saves the day AGAIN!
The year 2012 looks like it will be much more hopeful for the handheld.
Nintendo is ready to unleash that trademark 1st party power on ‘em all year
long. The anciently-awaited Kid Icarus: Uprising finally shows up on March 23rd
and you can expect Luigi’s Mansion 2 (yes!), the new Animal Crossing, the new
Paper Mario, and much more to lock down 3DS resurrection. And yes the Super
Smash Bros. series will be making its first visit to the handheld world in the
future. Hopefully Nintendo isn’t planning to start that pay-for-downloadables
gimmick like a recent Nikkei report claims they will do for the new Fire Emblem
game. They will definitely lose respect points from me if they go this
But overall 3DS is planting the seeds to crowd out Sony’s PlayStation Vita
and head off Apple’s game plans. American airports and the Louvre from France
are already catering to the 3DS with free airport Wi-Fi access through provider
Boingo and the famous art museum replacing its audio guides with the 3DS guiding
in their place. You think it’s good now, wait until the inevitable 3DS revision.
Hopefully with much better battery life this time!
Nintendo’s Wii got with Adam Sandler to sing The Chanukah Song with about
1,062,000 Just Dance players sold in the month Jews celebrate the Festival of
Lights. In the month Mexicans finish memorializing El Día de los Muertos, Wii
sold over 860,000 Skyward Zeldas showing an increase much more modest than
expected. Well, at least they still broke the 7-digit barrier. Time for the
weekly differential math game! Take November’s “more than 860,000”, divide it
into 4 weeks and get “more than 215,000”. Take that weekly approximation, add it
to the original “more than 860,000” and get “more than 1,075,000” for a 5-week
December total. Wii’s December figure was actually slightly less if we go by
Michael Pachter’s “less than 55%” comparison to last December.
As much as I went on and on about
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword this year, that game wasn’t the one that
really pushed Wii this holiday season. That honor goes to
Just Dance 3, a title
I’ve been overlooking in my analysis for way too long. While Zelda sold very
well, it has been the Just Dance franchise keeping Wii propped up especially
this year. No matter that Just Dance 3 broke Wii exclusivity to go to 360’s
Kinect and, this December, the PS3, Just Dance is a Wii franchise. In fact the
games were so strong that Just Dance 3 ranked #2 on this ‘all platforms
combined’ chart of multiplatform blockbusters for the month AND the year!!
WHAT!! Just Dance 2 being all Wii ranked #9 for the year! They even got
President Obama buying Just Dance 3 at Best Buy for Malia and Sasha! POWERFUL! I
talk about the WiiDS Phenomenon all the time. Should I start talking about the
Just Dance Phenomenon? Amazing, Ubisoft. Amazing.
I could bring up some more Zelda: Skyward Sword talk like the Save Data
Update Channel for fixing an in-game glitch but there’s more serious business to
go over. MIYAMOTO RETIRING?!?! The gaming world was ABSOLUTELY SHOCKED with even
the hint that Shigeru Miyamoto would be stepping down from Nintendo. He
represented one of the main pillars of Nintendo’s everlasting success as the
Artist, the late Gunpei Yokoi representing the Engineer, and former President
Hiroshi Yamauchi representing the Businessman. All people within the company are
defined by at least one of these pillars. Quality software, quality hardware,
and the ability to sell them best. That’s what made Nintendo the force and now
The Great Miyamoto is leaving??? Turns out he was just stepping down from his
General Manager position to return to more active hands-on game making. Whew!
Scared the ‘sheets’ out of me! We all know that day’s coming one day but let’s
hope that’s a day way far from tomorrow. To take off on a Dave Chappelle bit on
the late great Michael Jackson: “He made Mario...Mario.”
Before 2012 starts the hype machine for Wii U in full, old Wii still has some
unfinished business to attend to. Operation Rainfall has scored a win with
Nintendo officially confirming that Xenoblade Chronicles will be released in
America within April 2011. The Last Story (from Hironobu Sakaguchi of Square’s
Final Fantasy fame) has a specific February 24th release date in Europe and it
shouldn’t be too much to make a stateside debut. Jury’s still out on Pandora’s
Tower but with more rainfall buyers should get some sunshine. Rhythm Heaven
Fever comes on February 13th (for $30) and Mario Party 9 finally delivers its
unique sequel-itis on March 11th. Nintendo’s going to have to sprinkle any other
Wii releases strategically because it’s a long time until Wii U’s holiday season
launch. The past mid-year Wii droughts will have nothing on this coming mid-year
Sony’s PlayStation 3 remained non-denominational simply saying Happy Holidays
with possibly 936,000 to maybe 940,000 Blu-ray bundles sold in the month of
Human Rights Day. In the month of Universal Children’s Day, the plain and simple three sold about 900,000 Kevin Butler boxes
showing only the slightest of increases. Again, no one exactly knows what the
PS3 sold since Sony neither anybody else is giving any clearcut answers.
Microsoft claimed the 360 had a 46% share of the “current generation console
market” (presumably leaving out the handhelds) and calculating that with
Nintendo’s presumed figures leaves us a range of 936,000 to 940,000, possibly
maybe. It could be a little above or below that even since percentages can be
rounded up or down and Microsoft’s and Nintendo’s figures are fuzzy in
themselves. If the PS3 sold at the same November rate during this 5-week tracked
December, it would have had “more than 1,125,000” so PS3 is DEFINITELY down. So
much for breaking into the millions column this year.
Well, it’s clear that it’s never going to really get any better for the PS3.
For awhile, in worldwide lifetime totals it looked like the PS3 would catch and
surpass its direct rival, the 360. But the 360 stays just that much ahead of the
PS3 even though 360 only has 2 major regions to make its sales (360 is nothing
in Japan). Another price drop may give it a little jolt but it’s too late for
this console to get 2nd place anymore. The roles are set. PS3 will always play
second fiddle to the 360…except in Japan.
And speaking of Japan, there’s the matter of that little big handheld called
the PlayStation Vita which made its debut there on December 17th. In its first 2
days Vita sold 321,407 units according to Enterbrain’s Famitsū magazine. For
comparison, Andriasang unearthed the Famitsū’s Japanese sales of the 3DS in its
first 2 days—371,326—and the PSP in its first day—166,074 (3DS: February 26-27,
2011; PSP: December 12, 2004). These sales came from an official shipment of
500,000. But by the second tracking week (December 19-25) sales had fallen off
of a cliff to 72,479 according to Japanese sales tracker Media Create. That was
below the 3DS, PSP, Wii, and PS3! Only above the combined versions of the DS,
XBox 360, and the PS2! I’m not going to doom and gloom Sony just yet but this is
starting badly for them (yes, even worse than for 3DS). If Sony strikes out 3
times in a row, I don’t know how they’re going to make it in this VG thang. Sony
needs Vita to be a success—End Of Story.
To make sure Vita starts strong for its American debut in February, Sony will
have 25 launch games ready to purchase like ModNation Racers: Road Trip, wipEout
2048, Touch My Katamari, Dynasty Warriors Next, Lumines Electronic Symphony,
Rayman Origins, and Ultimate Marvel vs, Capcom 3 to name a few. Game prices
range anywhere from $10 to $50. Also, some fans may be annoyed by Vita’s
revealed inability to hold multiple PSN accounts (just one PSN account per
console) among other needling issues. We’ll see if the pros outweigh the cons at
launch. In other news, a couple of Sony Computer Entertainment America execs
(marketing vice president Scott Steinberg and public relations vice president
Rob Dyer) have exited the company (either by choice or by force). The Uncharted
series has shipped 13 million worldwide. And the amorphous hacker group
Anonymous is once again targeting “Sony Company and Associates” for hack attack.
They plan to destroy Sony’s network. Good luck in 2012, Sony. You’re gonna need
lots of it!
Nintendo’s DS was bahhed by Scrooge’s humbugs selling, uhhh…no clue, in the
first month of winter’s cold. In last full month of autumn’s leaves, the double
screen sold over 350,000 7-year olds in the 7th gen showing nothing but
guesswork. They’re not even talking about the big-time consoles’ sales, forget
about the old-head consoles. All we know is that DS in paraphrase of NPD’s Anita
Frazier’s words said that DS and 3DS were the only platforms to realize a unit
sales increase versus November How much of an increase? You got me. If we do
that 4-week to 5-week math thing I did above, DS would have “more than 437,500”
for 5-week December if the rate was even. It’s not at all impossible to see DS
breaking past half a million (500,000) if not a little more.
One thing I can be certain of in this uncertain scene is that 2012 will mark
the last year DS is counted on the sales chart. Like Sony’s PlayStation 2 does
even now it will still make sales but NPD’s moving on to bigger and better
things. Better prepare my console eulogy for when that time comes. Happy sales,
Sacked and sleighed together, the U.S. videogame industry presented a mere
$3.99 billion ($4.09 billion including PC portion) in total sales for December,
a 21% chimney slide from last December. Of this just-shy-of 4 billion dollar
figure, total hardware sales avalanched 28% down to $1.32 billion while total
software sales flurried 14% down to $2.04 billion. Meanwhile, total accessory
sales ‘blizzarded’ 27% down to $628.7 million. Wow. Underwhelming sales this
As we wrap up the presence of 2011, the U.S. videogame industry gifted $17.02
billion ($17.46 billion including PC portion) in total sales this year, an 8%
snowfall from 2010. Of this 17 billion dollar figure total hardware sales dunked
11% down to $5.58 billion while total software sales coaled 6% down to $8.83
billion. All the while, total accessory sales lumped 11% down to $2.61 billion.
Pachter was slightly off. These are the lowest sales since 2006’s $12.5 billion
total. It falls behind 2007’s $17.94 billion. At the time, both of those were
record-breaking figures but in this day and age they’re beginning to look old
hat. Once again, the industry will have to depend on Nintendo to boost numbers
with its 3DS and later hopefully the Wii U. I expect 2012 to look like the end
of the world sales-wise if Nintendo can’t bring the pain. Gonna be a hell of a
Remember this, all percentages in the above paragraph refer to year-to-year
comparisons between 2011 and 2010. And all percentages in the paragraph above
that refer to year-to-year comparisons between December 2011 and December 2010.
Ho ho ho!
There was no surprise what game owned the top spot in December. Yep,
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
Once again, this franchise beats its own records and dominates the conversation.
Like Black Ops did the year before and Modern Warfare 2 did the year before
that, expect this game to linger around the chart well into next year. This is
definitely one 3rd party evergreen blockbuster. But another is
Just Dance 3. The PS3 version
debuted this month but this is definitely Wii’s dance party. It reached #2 on
the monthly and yearly charts even though it only launched in the beginning of
October. Powerful game, that one is.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim also
showed some power making #3 on both monthly and yearly charts. But check out the
solo platform 3DS entries. Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D
Land interrupted the multiplatform get-together with some strong Nintendo magic.
Battlefield 3 couldn’t beat MW3 but it made good rankings on the monthly and
yearly charts. Madden is Madden, that’s a gimme. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
sneaks onto both charts. This year’s NBA strike didn’t keep 2K’s basketball game
off the monthly charts with Jordan, Johnson, Bird on the cover. And Batman was
your personal tour guide through Arkham
City. (Shouts out to Cliffy B for getting into
gear on the yearly charts)
Another year’s in the book, that much we can be certain. But who can be so
sure how the next year is going to turn out? Make acquaintance with the unknown,
life’s closest companion.
NPD’s Top Reported Hardware Sales
Microsoft XBox 360 – over 1,700,000*
Nintendo 3DS – ???
Nintendo Wii – about 1,062,000**
Sony PlayStation 3 – possibly in range 936,000 to 940,000†
Nintendo DS – ???
**Wedbush Morgan analyst
Pachter – deduction based on –55% percentage
†deduction based on XBox 360's
46% console share
and Wii's deducted figure
NPD’s Top Ten Combined Software
Sales in December
01. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (X360, PS3, Wii, PC)
02. Just Dance 3 (Wii, X360, PS3)
03. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (X360, PS3, PC)
04. Mario Kart 7 (3DS)
05. Battlefield 3 (X360, PS3)
06. Madden NFL 12 (X360, PS3, Wii, PSP, PS2)
07. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (X360, PS3, PC)
08. NBA 2K12 (X360, PS3, Wii, PSP, PS2, PC)
09. Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)
10. Batman: Arkham City (X360, PS3, PC)
NPD’s Top Reported Hardware Sales
Microsoft XBox 360 – over 7,239,000
Nintendo Wii – about 4,536,000
Sony PlayStation 3 – more over 3,865,000*
Nintendo 3DS – way over 2,374,000*
Nintendo DS – more over 2,524,000*
*approximations and rankings based on 2011's available reported figures and
deductions of missing data
NPD’s Top Ten Combined Software
Sales in 2011
01. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (X360, PS3, Wii, PC)
02. Just Dance 3 (Wii, X360, PS3)
03. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (X360, PS3, PC)
04. Battlefield 3 (X360, PS3, PC)
05. Madden NFL 12 (X360, PS3, Wii, PSP, PS2)
06. Call of Duty: Black Ops (X360, PS3, Wii, DS, PC)
07. Batman: Arkham City (X360, PS3, PC)
08. Gears of War 3 (X360)
09. Just Dance 2 (Wii)
10. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (X360, PS3, PC)