Software: Greener Than Ever
On Friday, the NPD Group released
its extended top 20 all-format software chart. As noted previously,
the list is interesting for the
appearance of several new properties.
In particular, THQ's Darksiders
appeared on the list for both the Xbox 360 (#10 with 171,000 units)
and the PlayStation 3 (#14 with around 137,000 units, according to
Doug Creutz of Cowen & Company).
Sony's new PS3-exclusive
shooter, MAG, placed
#13, and below that at #17 was the Xbox 360 version of Platinum Games'
Bayonetta with just
over 100,000 units. (According to Wedbush's Michael Pachter, only 18
titles sold more than 100,000 units in January 2010.)
Moreover, Ubisoft's Just
Dance for the Wii is a new
property, launched in November 2009, that made a strong showing in
both December and again in January (#9 with 192,000 units).
We should see more new titles
like these in the coming months, along with several sequels, that
were pushed out of the last quarter of 2009 to avoid competing with
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
However, we think that the more
telling trend visible in the January 2010 all-format chart is the
apparent establishment of New Super Mario Bros. Wii
as yet another evergreen title from Nintendo.
Look below at the top
20 chart, and pick out the Nintendo-published titles for the Wii and
Nintendo DS. We'll go over each of them, with details, underneath the figure.
Much has been made of the long,
broad appeal of Nintendo's software, but it is difficult to grasp the
timescales involved when the charts are viewed a single month at a
time. Consider graphical representation of the appearance in the top
20 all-format chart of several key Nintendo titles.
Here is a brief rundown of just
how dominant Nintendo's titles have been, measured from their
positions in the top 10 and top 20 charts.
Wii Play – First
released in February 2007, this game has been in the top 20 for 34
of the last 36 months. Perhaps more impressively, it has been in the
top 10 a stunning 29 times. It was the 2nd best-selling game in all of 2007, the top-selling game in 2008, and
best-selling game in 2009.
Mario Kart Wii –
The essential Wii racing game has appeared in the top 10 for 20 of
the last 22 months. In one month it missed the top 10 but placed in
the top 20. It was the #2 best-selling game of 2008 and the #6
best-selling game in 2009.
Wii Fit and
Wii Fit Plus – The first
iteration of this fitness title launched in May 2008, and its
successor was released in October 2009. At least one of these titles
has been in the top 10 for 20 of the last 21 months. The one month
is wasn't in the top 10 it was still in the top 20. Wii
Fit was the #3 title for all of
2008 while Wii Fit
and Wii Fit Plus took
the #4 and #5 spots, respectively, on the best-selling software
chart for all of 2009.
Wii Sports Resort –
The follow-up to the Wii pack-in game has been in the top 10 every
month since it launched in July 2009, and was the #2 best-selling
game of all of 2009.
To these four major lines we can
consider adding at least two Nintendo DS games. New Super
Mario Bros. for the Nintendo DS
was released originally in May 2006 but has appeared in the top 20
for at least 15 of the last 21 months, four of those appearances also
in the top 10.
Moreover, Mario Kart DS
has placed in the top 20 during
12 of the last 15 months. These older Nintendo DS titles sell so well
that they are still outselling newer software on the platform each
calendar year, as demonstrated in the following table of the top 5
Nintendo DS titles in 2009.
Given these precedents, it seems
likely that New Super Mario Bros. Wii
will follow in the footsteps of its handheld predecessor. Under those
circumstances, we expect it to be a top 10 software title at the end
As new Wii systems are added to
the installed hardware base, it appears they are continuing to choose
these Nintendo standards as part of their software library. Other
than the end of the Wii's run as the dominant console platform (at
least in terms of sales), it's hard to come up with a convincing
reason for these standards to fall off the sales charts.
From a purely economic point of
view, these titles present an impediment to at least some third-party
software sales. If each new Wii owner is going to buy one or more of
the standard first-party games (and this seems likely the case), then
those owners will likely also have less money to spend on third-party
games, at least at that time.
Then one key for third-parties is
to be ready for when that consumer returns for a new game at some
point later. Getting the consumer's attention in the crowded Wii
software market requires not only an easily understood premise (see
Just Dance), but
probably also brand-recognition (LEGO Star Wars
has done well) and at least some promotion (as Nintendo itself did
with Professor Layton).
Nintendo's own software success is simply part of the playing field
when courting the Wii consumer.