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Analysis: Sony's Move Meets With Modest Response From Consumers

Analysis: Sony's Move Meets With Modest Response From Consumers

October 19, 2010 | By Matt Matthews

October 19, 2010 | By Matt Matthews
More: Console/PC

[Examining September's NPD results as part of our larger monthly in-depth feature, Gamasutra analyst Matt Matthews unpicks what data there is surrounding the launch of Sony's new motion controller.]

For years Sony has built motion-control sensors into its Sixaxis and Dual Shock 3 controllers, but it wasn't until the launch of the Move on 17 September 2010 that Sony finally committed to a complete motion-control system. Combined with the PlayStation Eye camera, the new Move wands and navigation controllers give Sony an opportunity to break into the market thus far dominated by the Wii.

At least, that's the theory. After all, Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities calls the new PlayStation Move system and Microsoft's Kinect the manifestation of the Wii HD concept he's favored for years.

Regrettably, there will be a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the PlayStation Move controllers because they are classified as an accessory by the NPD Group. As a general rule, public accessories data from the NPD Group is limited to rankings only with no unit sales under any circumstances.

Moreover, according to Pachter the Move (and Kinect) systems will be reported by the NPD Group as hardware (when bundled with a console) or as accessory (when sold standalone or with a software bundle).

By our reading, this means that - unlike Nintendo's Wii Play (bundled with a Wii remote) and Wii Sports Resort (bundled with the Motion Plus accessory) - sales of software/controller bundles will give no insight into sales of Sony and Microsoft's motion-control systems. They will appear exclusively in the accessory segment, and thereby be even more obscure because sales numbers will never be publicly reported by the NPD Group itself.

Of course, Sony is free to release sales data about its own products, as we presume this extends to accessories, but the company declined even to release data about its own console hardware sales in September. (This last point is particularly unusual, since September 2009 and September 2010 are the only two months in which the PlayStation 3 hardware has outsold the Wii.)

Regardless of the obstacles, here is what we do know about the launch of PlayStation Move in the U.S. during September 2010:

- NPD Group data provided exclusively to Gamasutra shows sales of approximately 20,000 standalone copies of Sports Champions, a key first-party launch title for the Move system.

- Sports Champions was also bundled with special PlayStation 3 hardware and in a camera/wand bundle which would have been categorized by the NPD Group as an accessory. Moreover, Jim Reilly of IGN reported on the top six Move launch titles, according to NPD Group figures. (That table is reproduced below.)

- Given that standalone copies of Sports Champions would have generally sold to consumers who already owned the PlayStation Eye camera, this figure seems quite robust to us. We have indications that total Sports Champions sales were significantly higher than this 20,000 figure.

- We estimate that total sales of Sports Champions, including accessory bundles and hardware bundles, reached into the 100,000 to 150,000 unit range during September 2010. However, precise figures are not - and probably will not ever be - publicly available.

- According to Anita Frazier, analyst for the NPD Group, PlayStation Move accessories contributed to the 5% growth of the accessory segment over last year. All three of the Move SKUs - the standalone Move controller, the navigation controller, and the Sports Champions wand/camera bundle - made the list of top 10 accessories for the month.

- To this we would note that the accessory segment was up $15 million in September compared to the corresponding revenue figures for July and August. That suggests to us that some significant portion of that revenue could be ascribed to PlayStation Move sales. Sales of 100,000 Sports Champions wand/camera bundles would generate an additional $10 million in accessory revenue.

- Frazier added that the average price of system hardware increased in September, driven primarily by the Halo: Reach Xbox 360 bundle and the PlayStation Move 320GB PlayStation 3 hardware bundle. Both of these hardware bundles retails for $400.

- Finally, we note that Wedbush's Pachter suggested that he expected that Move controller sales were approximately 300,000 units including console bundles.

Here is our bottom line: During a 15-day period in September (and two days in October), Sony launched PlayStation Move and reached between 1% and 3% of the installed hardware base. We feel that Sony has put forth a modest effort and received a corresponding modest consumer reaction. The company has much work yet to do, should it wish to make Move a permanent fixture in the PlayStation product line.

While Sony has remained mum about U.S. sales of Move, we expect that Microsoft will show no such restraint when it comes to the launch of Kinect. Whatever comparisons we can draw after the launch of Kinect will have to be made to the limited data we've collected above, and anything Sony might release about October sales in approximately one month's time.

The only other data we have regarding Move sales comes from Europe, where SCEE head Andrew House said that Move sales were "somewhere in the region of 1.5 million units", a notably fuzzy measure of success. He went on to suggest that the sales had been so robust that Sony will "probably be looking at accelerating production."

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