Prior to the release of the NPD Group's March 2009 sales data on Thursday, which tracks U.S. retail console video game sales, most
analysts and observers expected that the industry would eke out
another month of growth.
With the results in, and industry sales down
nearly 17% overall, the discussion has shifted to look for
explanations for the drop.
Below we cover some essential features of the retail landscape in
March 2009. Read on for details about first-night sales of the
Nintendo DSi, price drops for PlayStation hardware, Capcom's strong
software sales, and the fate of third-party software on the Wii.
Hardware Generally Down
Other platforms have seen sales growth while Sony's PlayStation
hardware line has suffered a few months of year-on-year declines.
in March 2009 Sony's systems were joined by the Nintendo Wii and DS
in weaker sales. Only the Xbox 360 saw a year-on-year increase from
the rate in March 2008.Here's the last year's weekly sales rates:
The Wii dropped to 120,000 systems per week in March 2009, down
from 144,000 per week a year before and from 188,000 in February
2009. That's the weakest showing for the Wii since August 2008.
Despite year-on-year growth (from 52,000 units per week to 66,000
units per week), the Xbox 360 did see a month-on-month decline from
almost 98,000 per week in February 2009. Like the Wii, the last time
the Xbox 360 had a weekly sales rate this low was in August 2008.
The PlayStation 3 hit 43,600 systems per week in March 2009. The
last month that the PlayStation 3 sold so poorly was October 2007,
when it hit 30,250 systems per week, right before the introduction of
the 40Gb PlayStation 3 at $400. This is the fifth straight month of
year-on-year declines for the PlayStation 3.
As we have suggested since the last quarter of 2008, Sony is
enduring an extremely painful period, one in which it feels immense
pressure both to cut the price of the PlayStation 3 and
simultaneously to remain profitable.
One suspects that Sony wishes to
wait until its E3 presentation in six weeks to announce a price cut.
In that case, Sony will deny any price cuts are forthcoming until the
very last moment and, consequently, suffer yet again for at least two
more down reports for April and May.
The PlayStation 2 finally got a cut to $100 during the last week
of the March 2009 reporting period, and so the NPD group recorded
four days of sales at that new price. Sales of the system were down
to 22,400 systems per week for the month – the very lowest sales
rate for the system since its launch in October 2000.
We stand by our
conclusions last month: the cut achieves little. (Incidentally, this
is also the view voiced
by SCEA's Jack Tretton in July 2008 and last
week by GameStop CEO Dan DeMatteo.)