Following today's release of NPD sales data for April
, which showed Grand Theft Auto IV
and Mario Kart Wii
top the software charts as expected while Wii and Nintendo DS held on firmly to the top hardware slots, Gamasutra caught up with Microsoft product management director Aaron Greenberg to get his take.
Greenberg gave his thoughts on Xbox 360 and PS3's neck-and-neck sales rate, Wii's near-match of 360's total U.S. sales, how 2008 will be the industry's best year ever, and why he believes Sony is mistaken when it comes to European sales figures and whether GTA IV
's planned downloadable content will remain 360-exclusive.
You outsold PS3, but not by very much. You've basically been around the same figures for those two consoles recently. Do you think we're starting to reach a plateau where sales for those core-oriented consoles are evening out, maybe suggesting a limit to total growth in that market?
Overall, for April if you think about a hardware standpoint, it's usually a slower month of the year - 70 percent of console sales happen in the second half. We outsold the PS3 - but by a very small margin - and that's now the second month in a row we outsold them. In the 18 months we've both been on the market, we've outsold them in 16 months.
And if you think about software sales, we continue to drive more software sales at retail. If you look at total dollars on third party games, we're now driving more than PS3 and Wii combined. A lot of that is driven by GTA IV
. There was a 65 percent split versus PS3 with GTA IV
. We're really happy with that out of the gate--that's only in about five days on sale.
We think that May will be a better barometer for hardware sales. We're sort of happy to be the new home for GTA
, much like we've seen with Madden
and Guitar Hero
, other franchises traditionally associated with the PlayStation. There's a long list of franchises that used to be exclusive to PlayStation or traditionally sold better on that platform. PS3 isn't performing anywhere near PS2. We're the system with the most games, and the biggest online community. We know that people buy consoles for games.
So you expect more of an impact in May, but what do you think it says that even in the runup to GTA IV, we didn't see more of a bump in console sales?
I think it says that people that buy consoles primarily for games do so mostly at holiday times. At the end of the day, when we look at the scoreboard, we have more than twice the install base of [PS3]. They are not closing the gap. We are extending our lead, despite launching a year before them.
The big test will be this holiday. We will continue to have a bigger games library, maintain a price advantage and a much bigger online community. We'll have all our exclusives and all the big multiplatform titles. Those games play better on 360, and online becomes a bigger and bigger reason to play on our platform.
I think that GTA
is going to act a little bit different than something like Halo 3
, because it talks to a very different type of consumer - it reaches a very mainstream consumer. It's guys that don't read gaming websites, that don't read gaming magazines, that don't buy at launch.
But it's a franchise that has sold over 60 million units over the last three versions. We will notice that over the year, it will continue to be a top selling game. I think even this holiday, GTA
will continue to be a game that people are buying with their 360. That's why we think about that exclusive [GTA IV
] content - the timing will be great for us when making those console decisions.
It definitely has a longer tail than what you see with other title launches, and that's part of what makes that franchise unique.
On the topic of that exclusive content, a Sony exec recently suggested that it would come to PS3 eventually. Will it?
It's not possible as far as I'm aware, but that would be a good question to ask Rockstar. Rockstar and Xbox have only said there are exclusive episodes coming this fall to Xbox 360. I might put that up for a bit of wishful thinking on their end.
What about the recent claims that PS3 has outsold Xbox 360 in Europe?
I think it's not based on actual data. I think that's clear. We went and looked at independent sell-through data from companies like Chart-Track and GfK, and actual retail sell-through in actual consumers' hands. We have more than a million units than PS3. And that doesn't take into effect all the momentum behind our back. We've seen our sales double since the price drop.
- in markets like the UK, the majority of sales of GTA
are on Xbox. It is clear that when you look at actual independent sales data - not ours and not theirs - that we do have a larger install base.
You announced this week Xbox 360 surpassed 10 million units in the US. How significant do you think this is when Nintendo is only about half a million units behind with one year less on the market?
I think it speaks to the fact that we were the first console to reach that point - one of the advantages to being first to market. But we really feel that our competitor in the space is PlayStation 3. The Wii is much more of a complement to our experience. We're speaking to a different type of customer. I think it's important, but it isn't the only metric. Software is important too, and we do the best there.
In the prior generations, though, the first to hit 10 million units was the leader in that generation. We feel good about being at 10 million first. We feel good about 12 million Live members. We expect this will be the biggest year in the history of video games. That's great for us, that's great for Nintendo. As the pie continues to grow, that's good for everyone here.
There were quite a few Wii games up in the top sellers this month - obviously Xbox 360 leads in attach rate, but do you think Wii might be starting to progress in that area?
We're still seeing that the Wii - the attach rates remain quite a bit behind the 360, but that the games that are selling are still only Nintendo games. We're seeing a lot of third parties make games for Wii, and get them on shelves, and people not buying a lot of games, and the ones that they are are the Mario Kart
s and the Wii Play
It's great for Nintendo, but it's not great for the other 80 percent of the market where we rely on third parties. That's why I believe we're still the best platform for multiplatform games, and we continue to get more exclusives and things like that than other platforms are getting. I don't think that's going to change. Look at a title like GTA IV
that's traditionally on PlayStation, and now 65 percent of sales are on Xbox.