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NPD: Behind the Numbers, August 2009
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NPD: Behind the Numbers, August 2009

September 14, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

The key question here is whether Madden NFL 10 suffered inordinately weak sales this year compared to its potential in a down industry. While there may be some franchise fatigue – Madden NFL is now over two decades old – the 18% drop in first-month sales doesn't seem out of line to us, especially after several months of weaker software unit sales.

Moreover, we think it is particularly important that sales of the PlayStation 2 version have collapsed so utterly and yet there has been no corresponding surge on other platforms. That suggests to us the possibility that former PlayStation 2 owners are still waiting for an opportunity to upgrade and are holding off on buying Madden until acquiring that new platform.

The price war between the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 could have a profound effect on Madden NFL 10 sales through the rest of the year. As late adopters pick up their new system, so too may EA see sales of their football franchise rebound later this year.

Activision Pursues Mature Wii Support

As interest builds for Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the publisher is keeping an eye on the Wii market and experimenting with better, albeit dated, support. In early August a port of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare for the Wii was announced, due simultaneously with its sequel on other platforms.

We think this will be an interesting title to watch. It carries a strong brand name, has been given the support of a skilled developer (Treyarch), and will likely benefit from all the market publicity surrounding the launch of the sequel. It is also a title rated M (for Mature) by the ESRB, putting it in a category of Wii software for which the sales environment has been considered difficult.

For example, Sega's Madworld launched with sales of only 66,000 units in March of this year. At the time some felt that sales might pick up over time. As of August 2009, total sales of Madworld have climbed to 123,000 or an average of around 11,000 units for each month after launch.

Another Sega game with a violence/action theme, The Conduit, also posted sales of only 72,000 units when it was released in June 2009. It should be noted that The Conduit is only rated T (for Teen) by the ESRB.

However, there is ample evidence that M-rated action games can sell well on the Wii, and we need only look at last year's Call of Duty: World at War for the proof. According to exclusive NPD Group data, sales of World at War on the Wii have finally reached over 750,000.

This is clearly not in the same class as some of Nintendo's own first-party game (none of which are M-rated), nor is it in the same class as sales of the Xbox 360 for PlayStation 3 versions. Still, it is a very successful M-rated game on a system whose audience some consider ambivalent or even hostile to such content.

That bodes well for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on the Wii, and should prove an interesting case to follow at the end of 2009.

[As always, many thanks to the NPD Group for its monthly release of the video game industry data, with a special thanks to David Riley for his assistance and Anita Frazier for her analysis. Additional credit is due to Mr. Michael Pachter, analyst for Wedbush Morgan Securities, for his perspective and information. Finally, many thanks to colleagues at Gamasutra and commenters on NeoGAF for many helpful discussions.]

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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