Game Consoles – November 2009 NPD Sales Figure Analysis

The second busiest month of the year for video games sales in November. And all eyes on this year’s figures to see if a late surge can improve the industry’s fortunes, which looked set to fail in beating 2008’s record year of profits. With the war between the Xbox 360 and PS3 finally heating up some, and the PS3 finally able to beat Xbox 360 sales, the important holiday period will be a key indicator of what’s to come in 2010. And having had a largely disappointing year, the Wii is also looking towards the holiday period, and some hit titles, to give it the boost it needs. And with the biggest game of the year, possibly in history (based on previous sales results), being released in November (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2), the figures this month are extremely interesting. You can read last month’s analysis here. The figures are from NPD, a marketing research firm that releases games console sale data every month.

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

  • DS: 1,700,000 (Total: 36.1 million; November 2008: 1,560,000 – up 9%)
  • Wii: 1,260,000 (Total: 23.3 million; November 2008: 2,040,000 – down 38%)
  • Xbox 360: 819,500 (Total: 17.3 million; November 2008: 836,000 – down 2%)
  • PS3: 710,400 (Total: 9.8 million; November 2008: 378,000 – up 88%)
  • PSP: 293,900 (Total: 16.2 million; November 2008: 421,000 – down 30%)
  • PS2: 203,100 (Total: 44.9 million; November 2008: 206,000 – down 1%)
NPD November 2009 Game Console US Sales Figures

NPD November 2009 Game Console US Sales Figures

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

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

My prediction from last month was:

Sales will go up considerably compared to October, that’s for sure. The DS will be top, the number two spot will be closely fought between the PS3 and Wii, although I’m leaning towards the Wii winning that battle right now. The Xbox 360 is 4th, followed by the other two PlayStation consoles. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 will be the number one selling game, and the controversial game will be a record seller if the hype is anything to go by. The Xbox 360 version of this multi-platform game should be the one occupying the top spot. Other titles that will do well for the Xbox 360 include Assassin’s Creed II and the console platform exclusive Left 4 Dead 2. For the Wii, a new Super Mario Bros game will always be a hit, and it could give CoD: MW2 some competition (although mainly for the PS3 version, one suspect). Dragon Age: Origins, from the same people that gave us Mass Effect, could make the top 10 as well, since I’ve been hearing a lot about this game recently.

I must admit that it’s easy to make a monthly prediction when, by the time you write it, half of the month has already gone by. But even then, I was wrong, although only about one thing. Most, including me, had predicted the Wii to struggle to beat the PS3, with the Xbox 360 4th overall, but it turned out that the Wii Manged to beat both the PS3 and Wii, and it was the PS3 that finished fourth. Every other thing I predicted came true, except that I thought the new Super Mario Bros Wii game would give at the very least the PS3 version of CoD: MW2 some competition, but the controversial Modern Warfare 2 managed to win handsomely in the software charts this month despite Mario, Luigi and co.

The DS had a huge month, especially when you compare it to the only other portable console, the PSP, and also as the PSP had a new version out recently that should have given it the momentum. Instead, the DS managed to be the number one selling console this month, and was able to beat last year’s record sales quite comfortably. The other piece of good news is that the Wii managed to hold on to second spot ahead of intense competition from the PS3 in the last couple of months, and it managed to do so quite comfortably as well. But even then, the Wii sold 38% less than the same time last year, and has been throughout the year. It was the single biggest drop in sales of all the consoles, but you have to take into consideration the record and unbelievable numbers that it was selling the year before. At the present rate and at the current stage of its release cycle, the Wii is still set to beat the PS2 as the most popular console ever, so Nintendo would not be worried, although they have less to be happy about than a year ago.

While almost everyone thought the PS3 would outsell the Xbox 360, especially given the results of the last two month, the actual result proved to be quite different. The Xbox 360 sold nearly 110,000 more units the than PS3, reversing the trend of the previous two month. There are many reasons for this. One is that because the Xbox 360 is cheaper, cheaper items tend to do better during the busy Thanksgiving holiday period, where the budget conscious buyers are out in force. DVDs had a similar surge in sales compared to the more expensive Blu-ray during the same period, for example. The one reason is simply Modern Warfare 2. While this game is a multi-platform release, the huge install base of the first game in the series on the Xbox 360 and the multi-player nature of the game, meant that many wanting to get the sequel *had* to get it on the Xbox 360, and the software charts will be further prove of this. Microsoft took advantage of this and had quite a few MW2 bundles out, which seems to have proved quite popular with gamers going by the hardware numbers. If not for MW2, I don’t think the Xbox 360 would have outsold the PS3. The Xbox 360 experienced a negligible 2% drop compared to the same month in 2008, so November 2009 sales were extremely positive considering how much of a record year 2008 was.

And so the PS3 came fourth, but had the single largest year on year improvement, with 88% better sales than the same time last year. Sony will claim, and have claimed, that the PS3 was the only home console to record year on year growth, and this is true. Except that the Xbox 360 only missed out on doing the same by a 20,000 units, and that PS3 sales were awful this time last year, it was hard for the PS3 not to improve. However, the PS3 didn’t get as much of a boost from a software release like the Xbox 360, and as I mentioned before, I think it would have beaten the Xbox 360 had MW 2 not been released. So these numbers are still extremely good, but the only real concern is that the gap between the Wii and PS3 seems to be widening again after that big bump in PS3 sales in September, thanks to the simultaneous release of the PS3 Slim and the price cut, seems to be dissipating. We’ll know more after the holiday period is over, and whether the PS3 can maintain its momentum, or whether it will need further price cuts to try and beat the Wii. To be honest, I think it’s already too late for the PS3 to win this generation, so the best it can do is to beat the Xbox 360, which seems likely. For Sony’s other consoles, I will be surprised if the PS2 is still around the same time next year, and the PSP is struggling badly even with the new PSP Go, dropping 30% in sales even with the new model. It’s too late now, but the PSP Go should really have been Sony’s response to the DS, which will now monopolise the portable gaming industry.

Overall, November 2009 did worse than November 2008. Some of it is due to the economic situation in the US. Quite a bit of it has to do with Wii sales dropping, although they were always going to drop at some stage (it’s better to think of the Wii’s first two years as simply extraordinary, and the current year’s sales as “normal”). 2008 was always going to be hard to beat, but 2009 is still the best year in sales outside of 2008, and that’s positive for the industry.

On to software sales now. The amazing figures for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare says it all really. Over 4 million copies of the game sold on the Xbox 360 alone, with 6 million combined for the two consoles, and not even counting the PC version and any console bundled versions. That’s amazing for any single game, and completely blows away all previous records, whether that was for GTA IV, or Halo 3 or the first Modern Warfare game. The Xbox 360 version easily outsold the PS3 version by more than a 2:1 margin, higher than the actual hardware ratio lead that the Xbox 360 enjoys, meaning that a higher percentage of Xbox 360 owners purchased this game compared to PS3 owners. The stats seem to show that one in four Xbox 360 owners purchased a copy of this game, and that’s only in the first month of release as well. Also contributing to this month’s amazing software sales figures is the new Super Mario Bros. game for the Wii, which managed to sell over a million copies as well. Assassin’s Creed II did well on both the Xbox 360 and PS3, with the Xbox 360’s lead less than 2:1, although still higher than many recent multi-platform releases which has seen the PS3 version almost sell on level terms with the Xbox 360 version, despite the lower hardware numbers. The Xbox 360 exclusive Left 4 Dead 2 also helped to improve the Xbox 360 software numbers. Overall, the Xbox 360 dominated the top 10, with 52.8% of all sales belonging to the platform. The Wii was second best with 27.1% of all top 10 sales, the PS3 with 20.1%.

Here’s the complete list of the top 10 software sales:

  1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Xbox 360, Activision) – 4,200,000
  2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PS3, Activision) – 1,870,000
  3. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii, Nintendo) – 1,390,000
  4. Assassin’s Creed II (Xbox 360, Ubisoft) – 794,700
  5. Left 4 Dead 2 (Xbox 360, EA) – 744,000
  6. Wii Sports Resort (Wii, Nintendo) – 720,200
  7. Wii Fit Plus (Wii, Nintendo) – 697,000
  8. Assassin’s Creed II (PS3, Ubisoft) – 448,400
  9. Dragon Age: Origins (Xbox 360, EA) – 362,100
  10. Mario Kart w/ Wheel (Wii, Nintendo) – 315,000

Time to make a prediction. December hardware sales should be even higher than November’s based on past trend, but with MW 2 still selling in good numbers, it should help the Xbox 360. But I suspect it will be a closely fought race between the Xbox 360 and PS3 for the third place finish, behind the DS and Wii at first and second. Software wise, MW 2 should still be selling well, and should hold top spot, although Wii Fit Plus may make a surprise surge. But in all likelihood, both versions of MW 2 will probably beat New Super Mario Bros. Wii to furnish the top 3 spots. Overall software sales will be down, because it will be hard to beat this month’s figures.

See you next month.


One Response to “Game Consoles – November 2009 NPD Sales Figure Analysis”

  1. Weekly News Roundup (13 December 2009) | DVDGuy’s Blog @ Digital Digest Says:

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

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