[Gamasutra analyst Matt Matthews reviews NPD Group's January 2010 sales figures, which reflect evergreen Nintendo-published titles and how Sony is headed towards a single-platform focus.]
According to the latest video game retail sales figures from the
NPD Group, released on Thursday last week, the industry started
2010 with another year-over-year decline. While many analysts now
expect the industry to return to growth by March, it is clear that
the industry once thought recession-proof is still struggling just to
maintain an even keel.
On the hardware front, much is happening. We may be witnessing the
collapse of two platforms – Sony's PlayStation 2 and PlayStation
Simultaneously both Nintendo and Sony have indicated that
they are having trouble supplying enough hardware to the market after
the furious holiday rush. These factors, along with last year's
hardware price cuts pushed hardware revenue down a staggering 21%
compared to January 2009.
For the month of January 2010, software prices remained flat when
compared to a year prior. Therefore when software unit sales fell by
12.7%, software revenue also fell by nearly the same amount.
In fact, the accessory segment – which consists of controllers,
points/cash cards, and many other items – was the only one which
showed any revenue growth last month, inching up a mere 2.5%.
However, the accessory segment is also the smallest of the big three,
and therefore any growth there was more than consumed by the losses
in the software and hardware segments.
The table below shows all the revenue data released by the NPD
Group about retail video game sales in January 2010 as well as January
As we look at the available data below, we make three major
points. First, it appears that Sony could become a single-platform
company in the very near term. Second, Nintendo's evergreen software
line-up appears to be getting even more evergreen; that is, the
company has more and more titles making consistent appearances at the
top of the software sales lists.
Finally, to understand how we might
manage to turn the declines around we make a somewhat unusual
comparison: how January 2010 is actually more like January 2008 than