Inside the Numbers - The December 2009 NPDs
Posted by Chris Lansdell on 01.15.2010
411's Chris Lansdell takes an in-depth look at the sales figures for December, makes some predictions and talks about what the numbers tell us. Get the full story inside!
The December 2009 NPD sales figures have been released, and following on from our article yesterday we’re going to take a deeper look at the numbers and what they mean for us as gamers. We’ll also make some rough guesses about what we can expect for January sales.
December 2009 Hardware Sales
Wii -- 3,810,000
Nintendo DS -- 3,310,000
Nintendo enjoyed an incredible month, with the Wii alone outselling all non-Nintendo hardware combined. It just goes to show that for all the complaints about “shovelware”, “waggle” games that treat the Wiimote as a gimmicky add-on and the lack of “hardcore” gamer’s games, the Wii is dominant. You can point to the low price point, the fact that it’s newer or even the word-of-mouth hype machine, but the fact remains that in today’s market, family-friendly sells. I’m 31 years old, and my mother owns a Wii. My son owns a Wii. Senior homes, physiotherapists and even fitness camps use the Wii for recreation, rehabilitation and exercise.You can sit down and play Wii with a diverse group of people without worrying about skill levels or people being offended. At this point, releasing more Mature-rated games might even hurt the Wii as it will damage the perception of it as a casual console.
At a time like the Christmas season, sales of a family-friendly console that retails under $200 were always going to be high. Nintendo, in an announcement that raised many an eyebrow, recently said they had sold 3 million units in December. We had no idea at the time just how conservative that was. It’s still a surprisingly large number, and I don’t think anyone expected such wholesale dominance. However, the DS sales numbers are less surprising. NPD combines the SKUs for DS, DS Lite and DSi for these reports, and the latter was new this year. Handheld gaming is still very much a younger market, and the software available for DS is a key contributor to these numbers as it is tailored to that demographic. Even in design the DSi and DS Lite are both made for smaller hands; I get cramping when I play Scribblenauts for more than half an hour. As with the Wii though, Nintendo knows their market and has aimed squarely at it.
PlayStation 3 -- 1,360,000
Xbox 360 -- 1,310,000
Sony and Microsoft are putting bold faces on this, but they cannot be happy with these numbers when Nintendo sold over 7 million units of hardware, and their handheld outsold both of them combined. What’s interesting is how close this battle is. Price drops and some strong exclusives seem to have made a big difference for Sony this holiday season, but although they managed to beat Microsoft it was by a mere 50,000 units. Still it’s a move in the right direction, so with any luck Sony will take the hint and realise that the price was the issue. You can talk about the added cost of Xbox Live and a BluRay player and a larger hard drive all you want, most consumers only care about the price on the box.
PlayStation Portable -- 654,700
PlayStation 2 -- 333,200
Not much to add here, except to say that these two systems are still selling very well considering their age. I’d be very interested to see how many PSP sales were for the Go.
For the sake of comparison, here are last month’s numbers. Of course these will be far lower due to Christmas:
Nintendo DS -- 1,700,000
* Wii -- 1,260,000
* Xbox 360 -- 819,500
* PlayStation 3 -- 710,400
* PlayStation Portable -- 293,900
* PlayStation 2 -- 203,100
That’s a huge jump for the Wii: 200% in the space of a month. The smallest increase was in Xbox 360 sales, which has to be ringing alarm bells in Renton. With Project Natal due before Christmas 2010 however, I’d bet considerable money that Microsoft is not languishing in fourth in the December 2010 NPD numbers.
Predictions for January 2010 - Hardware
Unlike some sites, I won’t try and give you sales numbers. Anything I came up with would be a complete guess anyway, since I’m no financial analyst. However, I will give you the order and some rationale.
First off, all these numbers will be way down from December, I think that goes without saying. However I’ve seen some very good sales on DS Lite in the post-Christmas blowout sales, and that should be enough to push it past the Wii into top spot. The Wii itself will come back down to earth and although I expect it to beat out its home console rivals, the gap will be a lot smaller. Microsoft will get its revenge and pip PS3 for the third spot, probably by less than 100,000 units.
Hardware sales may be driven by software, but at the Christmas season the reverse is also true. Throughout the year people will buy games based on the systems they own, and occasionally they will buy a new system to upgrade or to play a specific game. At Christmas more people are starting from scratch, so they will often buy a system because of the games, as well as buying the good games for the system they want. The ridiculously high sales for Wii hardware are corroborated here by the top 3 games, including the only 2 to break 2 million for the month, all being kid-friendly, first-party Nintendo titles. Although NSMB was released in November, the other two have been out for a while and no doubt saw their numbers bumped due to being bought with hardware. It just goes to show what can be done with intelligent use of the motion sensitivity function of the Wii, as well as with the Wii hardware. It also proves that a smash hit doesn’t have to be rated T or higher.
NSMB is a blast, and if you haven’t tried it, you need to. If I didn’t own a Wii, this game would make me buy one. It’s good enough solo, but playing multiplayer is a more fun than shooting cyberducks in a barrel (a million internets to anyone who got that slightly paraphrased reference). Any game in which you can ride Yoshi, swallow one of the other players and spit them onto their own Yoshi is alright by me. I’ve yet to try Wii Fit Plus, but Sports Resort is also a good laugh. The swordfighting minigame is altogether too addictive (both Mrs Lansdell and Lansdell Jr enjoy pushing me in the water immensely), and table tennis brings back memories of my youth. It’s easy to immerse yourself in these minigames and find yourself moving your whole body as if you were really playing the sport, which of course is great exercise. Oh, and you have to try wakeboarding. You can almost feel the spray.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (360) -- 1,630,000
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PS3) 1,120,000
No surprise here. It was inevitable that the torrid pace of sales for this title would slack off after almost a full month of sales, but with no real AAA titles being released in December it remained strong. What’s interesting is that the gap between 360 and PS3 versions closed significantly, suggesting that more people buy Mature games on PS3. I doubt that’s actually the case, especially given the huge disparity in last month’s numbers.
Wii Play (Wii) -- 1,010,000
Mario Kart Wii (Wii) -- 936,100
Old games are old. However, don’t overlook that Wii Play comes with a Wiimote, and for Christmas gifts in a family a second controller is essential. No salesman worth his salt would let that opportunity go by without offering Wii Play. This same theory could also have contributed to sales of Wii Sports Resort and to a lesser extent Mario Kart Wii, with its steering attachment.
Assassin's Creed 2 (360) -- 783,100
Left 4 Dead 2 (360) – 728,500
Interesting that these two games, also rated Mature, both held steady from November to December. Both games likely suffered in their initial weeks from being released too close to the Modern Warfare 2 juggernaut (which, ironically, does not have the Juggernaut perk...) and therefore had a strong month once the MW2 buzz had gone to normal levels.
Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (DS) -- 656,700
Just to complete the picture, every single Wii and DS game on the list is a first-party game, and they all saw an increase in sales even if they had been out for a while. Every other game on the list is third-party, non-exclusive and saw a drop in sales. Domination complete.
December's winner: Clearly, Nintendo. They won in every way, shape and form imaginable. Not even close. December's loser: Microsoft, though Sony should not be complacent. Their flagship Christmas hope did not crack the top 3, they sold fewer hardware units than Sony, and they have absolutely nothing in these numbers to brag about.
For comparison, here are last month's numbers:
1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (360) -- 4,200,000
2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PS3) -- 1,870,000
3. New Super Mario Bros. (Wii) -- 1,390,000
4. Assassin's Creed II (360) -- 794,700
5. Left 4 Dead 2 (360) -- 744,000
6. Wii Sports Resort (Wii) -- 720,200
7. Wii Fit Plus (Wii) -- 679,000
8. Assassin's Creed II (PS3) -- 448,400
9. Dragon Age: Origins (360) -- 362,100
10. Mario Kart (Wii) – 315,000
When games like Assassin's Creed on the PS3 and Dragon Age Origins on all systems are displaced from the Top 10 by Wii Play (almost 3 years old) and a resurgent Mario Kart (20 months old), you can see just how total Nintendo's dominance has been.
Predictions for January 2010 – Software
Mass Effect 2 (360)
New Super Mario Bros (Wii)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (360)
Darksiders: Wrath of War (360)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PS3)
Dark Void (360)
Wii Fit Plus (Wii)
Mass Effect 2, despite being released in the last week of the month, should have no problem bagging the number one spot. It's been hyped to the heavens and it has a sex scene in it, so it's going to attract attention from the 360 faithful. Bayonetta and Darksiders seem to be getting duelling reviews across the net which may hurt sales of both somewhat. I can certainly see why some people are down on Bayonetta, though personally I am enjoying it. It is a bit contrived and the graphics, while beautifully rendered, are in a strange style. Not everyone's cup of tea for sure. Darksiders is on my “to try” list and if I get to it before next month's NPDs, I'll have my thoughts in there. Dark Void so high in the list is a gamble on my part, because I feel it will either bomb spectacularly or succeed more than most are expecting. Even if the latter happens, I don't think it will have the juice to surpass the games above it. MAG is an intriguing one, because if it had been hyped at all and if it had more than 5 days to sell before the end of the month it might have made waves. As it is I think it will be slow catching on, but might break the top 10 in February.
We'll be back next month with an in-depth look at the January numbers. Disagree with my predictions? Want to make some of your own? Got a different take on the numbers? Drop it in the comments!