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Analysis: Wii Software Sales Slow Down In 2009

Analysis: Wii Software Sales Slow Down In 2009

October 22, 2009 | By Matt Matthews

October 22, 2009 | By Matt Matthews
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[In this NPD analysis, part of our monthly extended look at U.S. console retail sales, Gamasutra examines software sales to date for all three major consoles, and finds Wii software sales have slowed in 2009.]

According to exclusive data provided to Gamasutra by the NPD Group, Microsoft's Xbox 360 has improved its tie ratio to 8.8 titles per system as of September 2009, up from 8.6 titles per system three months ago. The Nintendo Wii's tie ratio also increased in that period, from 6.4 to 6.5 titles per system.

Only the PlayStation 3 held its tie ratio essentially constant in the last quarter. According to NPD Group data 6.8 titles have been sold for each system. The tie ratio for the PS3 may remain constant, or even decline, as its hardware sales pick up and a commensurate jump in software sales lags a month or more behind.

Note that these figures are for software sold at retail only. Software sold on each system's online storefront are not included in NPD Group retail figures, although the firm does separately track such sales. Those figures are not publicly available.

Utilizing these new tie ratio data and the installed base of each system, we can determine the total software sales for each system. When we last checked these figures at mid-year, the Wii was within two million software units of overtaking the Xbox 360.

In the intervening period Wii software sales appear to have slowed somewhat, and the Xbox 360 still has a lead of about 3 million software units over Nintendo's Wii. In 47 months on the market around 143 million units of Xbox 360 software have been sold through U.S. retailers.



In just 35 months the Nintendo Wii has sold nearly as much software. To put this in perspective, the Wii has sold nearly 50 million more units of software than the Xbox 360 had at the comparable point in its lifetime.

The PlayStation 3 has been selling software at a slightly higher rate than the Wii, but on a much smaller installed base. With only 59 million units of software sold to date, the PlayStation 3 not only lags the Wii (which launched simultaneously) but also the Xbox 360 at the same point in its lifetime.

The year-to-date software totals for these consoles provides a very interesting perspective on the state of the software market.



As the graph above shows, both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have seen about 20% growth in software unit sales over the first three quarters of 2008. During the same period, however, Wii software sales have been flat. Even though Wii software sales are still higher than either of the other platforms, there is clearly something amiss.

One possibility is that Wii software sales were extraordinarily high during the first three quarters of 2008. Certainly Nintendo's first-party software dominated during that period with titles like Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Kart Wii, and Wii Fit launching while Wii Play continued to appear in the all-format top 10 software chart month after month.

However, a closer look at the underlying figures suggests that Wii software sales really have slowed down throughout 2009, precisely in the period during which Wii hardware sales have also shown declines. It is also notable that Nintendo has not had a truly big first-party software release on the Wii this year.

Even with the price cut stimulating hardware sales and New Super Mario Bros. Wii, due out in November, it will probably be quite difficult for Nintendo to demonstrate growth of software for the year. According to our figures, over 36 million units of Wii software were sold in just the fourth quarter of 2008.

(Note: While tie ratio and attach rate are commonly used interchangeably by some, they are indeed quite different. As indicated above, a tie ratio is a measurement of the number of titles sold on average to system owners. By contrast, an attach rate is the percentage of a system's installed base which own a particular title or accessory.)


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