Game Consoles – March 2009 NPD Sales Figure Analysis

Welcome to another issue of the monthly NPD Sales Figure Analysis. This time, it’s for the month of March 2009. The video gaming industry has been recession proof so far, and not only that, seems to be growing at an incredible rate despite other industries struggling all around them. However, March 2009 may just serve notice to the industry that they are not immune to the global condition and that, while home entertainment will always be more robust during a recession, things like pricing are still important (take note Sony!). And I think this month’s figures will prove this point. The figures are from NPD, a marketing research firm that releases games console sale data every month.

The figures for US sales in March 2009 are below, ranked in order of number of sales (March 2008  figures also shown, including percentage change):

  • Wii: 601,000 (Total: 19.6 million; March 2008: 721,000 – down 17%)
  • DS: 563,000 (Total: 29.7 million; March 2008: 698,600 – down 19%)
  • Xbox 360: 331,000 (Total: 14.9 million; March 2008: 262,000 – up 26%)
  • PS3: 218,000 (Total: 7.5 million; March 2008: 257,000 – down 16%)
  • PSP: 168,000 (Total: 15 million; March 2008: 297,100 – down 43%)
  • PS2: 112,000 (Total: 43.8 million; March 2008: 216,000 – down 48%)
  • NPD March 2009 Game Console US Sales Figures

    NPD March 2009 Game Console US Sales Figures

    NPD Game Console Total US Sales Figures (as of March 2009)

    NPD Game Console Total US Sales Figures (as of March 2009)

    My prediction from last month was:

    My prediction for March 2009 would be that PS3 sales finally beat the 2008 equivalent, thanks largely to Killzone 2 and RE5 (March 2008 was also a very slow month). The ordering of the hardware sales would still remain the same though, as RE5 is no longer platform exclusive for the first time. It will be interesting on the software front, because you would imagine RE5 selling better on the 360, although perhaps only by the same margin as SFIV, and Killzone 2 should do better than the averagely rated (relatively speaking) Halo Wars. 

    Well I did get one thing right, which was that the order of the hardware numbers would remain the same. Unfortunately, every other piece of prediction was incorrect (although RE5 did sell better on the 360). My first prediction of the PS3 finally beating its 2008 numbers was sadly incorrect. In fact, none of the consoles did better than in 2008, except for the Xbox 360. All the red you see from the numbers above makes bad reading for the industry. Only Microsoft will be happy, but for how long? For the software predictions, I will take about them later.

    The PlayStation numbers look worse and worse. Not just the PS3, but also the PSP and PS2. It seems the PS brand is no longer capturing the imaginations of users, largely thanks to the innovative Wii, but I think the main issue is still price. Price is an issue highlighted very strongly this month. It is no wonder that the cheapest non-portable console, the Xbox 360, was the best selling and the only one to have year-on-year growth. Even in the portable arena, the cheaper Nintendo DS continues to soundly beat the more expensive and technically superior PSP – the PSP in particular seems to have peaked in sales and has allowed the Nintendo DS to completely dominate the portable market thanks to its broad spectrum marketing plans that target children of all ages and sexes, as opposed to the “typical” PlayStation user. The one bright spot, if you can call it that, is that out of all the drops, the PS3 dropped the least.

    The Nintendo consoles had an unexpected drop in sales as well, year-on-year. To be fair, nobody expected their surge in sales to last so long – the numbers will have to drop because they have nowhere else to go, not for so long anyway. It will be interesting to see next month if this was a blip (or if the whole month of March was a blip), or a new trend that’s emerging.

    Microsoft will be happy with the numbers again. 2009 has proved to be a good year so far, at least if the goal is to cement second place in the console wars. The Xbox 360 numbers are very encouraging thank to the year-on-year growth, and I think its status as the cheapest video game console on the market is finally paying dividends. Remember, this follows on from last month where it also had a sales surge (up 54% year-on-year – the biggest out of all consoles), and although it appears strange since nothing new has actually happened on pricing or bundling front, perhaps it’s just a case of the economy finally forcing people to buy the cheapest console, rather than the one that really want (Wii). I don’t think the people forced to do this will be entirely unhappy with their decision though, because value wise, the Xbox 360 is fantastic. And anyone that classify themselves more than just casual gamers will appreciate the range of games on the 360 as compared to the Wii.

    Software was a different situation, where March was actually quite a good month. Not as good as March 2008, but it had Super Smash Bros. Brawl that inflated the overall sales by selling 2.7 million – this month’s top selling game didn’t even break a million. But overall, it looks more positive than last month. As for my predictions from the last month, RE5 did sell better on the 360 over the PS3, but I was expecting SF IV type numbers (neck and neck between PS3 and 360), but it turned out to be more GTA IV (2-to-1 in favour of the 360). I was also wrong to say that Halo Wars would sell less well than Killzone 2, despite the former’s poorer rating. I guess franchaises sell, and Halo is bigger than Killzone. And it looks like the decision to release Killzone 2 in late February, as opposed to delaying the release date to the March reporting period, may have hurt Sony’s chances to grab more software market share. Killzone 2’s March sales was almost as well as February’s, but had they been combined, it would have taken it maybe to 3rd spot, just above Halo Wars (probably just short of it though). Instead, it’s 5th and 7th result, while still respectable compared to other PS3 titles in the past, looks pretty average when compared to the pretty average Halo Wars (scored only 82 on Metacritics, while Killzone 2 was  at a high 92). And while I casually mentioned the first GTA game on the DS last month, it didn’t even make the top 10, which perhaps shows that the DS does not have the same demographic as your typical GTA lover, further proven by the fact that a Pokemon game was number 2 on the chart. I wonder how well GTA would have done if it was a PSP exclusive?

    Microsoft’s recent resurgence sees them take top spot in sales, as well as being the most popular console in the top 10 with 36.5% of all sales in the top 10 belonging to the platform. Sony held on to second place with 3 titles in the top 10 (a record?), and 24.3% of the market share. Nintendo is the loser this month with 22.6%, down from the 50% average they’ve been achieving in the last 4 months. You do wonder how long before Wii Fit, Wii Play and Mario Kart are no longer automatic entries in the top 10. Here’s the complete list of the top 10 software sales:

    1. Resident Evil 5 (Xbox 360, Capcom) – 938,000
    2. Pokemon Platinum (DS, Nintendo) – 805,000
    3. Halo Wars (Xbox 360, Microsoft) – 639,000
    4. Resident Evil 5 (PS3, Capcom) – 585,000
    5. Wii Fit w/Board (Wii, Nintendo) – 541,000 
    6. MLB ’09: The Show (PS3, Sony) – 305,000  
    7. Killzone 2 (PS3, Sony) – 296,000
    8. Wii Play w/ Remote (Wii, Nintendo) – 281,000
    9. Mario Kart w/ Wheel (Wii, Nintendo) – 278,000
    10. MLB 2K9 (Xbox 360, Take-Two) – 205,000

    I have no idea what’s on sale next month. I could check, but I’m lazy. Suffice to say, I don’t expect the situation to change much, although hardware sales could improve. Can the PS3 outsell it’s 2008 self? I’m going to say yes again to that, even though I was wrong last month. This is because April 2008 was a bad month for the PS3, the first signs that it wasn’t going to beat the 360 in 2008 like the first few months had promised. Sony will hope April 2009 will be a better month.

    See you next month.


    5 Responses to “Game Consoles – March 2009 NPD Sales Figure Analysis”

    1. AndyR Says:

      Sony held on to second place with 3 titles in the top 10 (a record?)”

      I only see two, Res. E. 5 and Killzone 2.

    2. DVDGuy Says:

      Oops. The analysis was correct and based on the right info (and remains unchanged), but the actual list of the top 10 was incorrect and has been updated accordingly (missing the two MLB games).

    3. Weekly News Roundup (26 April 2009) « Blog Archive « DVDGuy’s Blog @ Digital Digest Says:

      […] DVDGuy’s Blog @ Digital Digest Just what the world needs, another blog « Game Consoles – March 2009 NPD Sales Figure Analysis […]

    4. _mac-10_ Says:

      I’m guessing that it’s about time for the Wii price drop. There’s Apple-esque margin in the system right now (as there has been since launch), so Wii dropping to $150 doesn’t seem that far fetched IMHO.

      It’s just too bad Nintendo doesn’t release a 720p output mode in the next patch. With some of the better looking games (especially SSBB, which I think still looks amazing when even comparing it to many PS3 and 360 titles), it’s something that would be icing on the cake.

    5. Game Consoles – March 2010 NPD Sales Figure Analysis | DVDGuy’s Blog @ Digital Digest Says:

      […] figures for US sales in March 2010 are below, ranked in order of number of sales (March 2009 figures also shown, including percentage […]

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