It's time once again for the industry-bellwether NPD report. Sales! Numbers! Stocks! Portfolios! Why do we care?? Well, by recounting console sales and the best-selling games for the month (at retail in the US, that is), NPD offers a bellwether for the overall state of the industry. Provided you can actually deconstruct the increasingly complicated data, of course.
If you cant make heads or tails of SKUs, sell through, or aggregate bundles, then its a good thing youve come to this newly minted analysis of March 2014s NPD reports. Ive got six key takeaways from the stats and the ensuing statements the many publishers made to the press, all laid out in one simple package. Want to know the current standings of the PS4 vs. Xbox One battle, where Nintendo stands in all this, and what could possibly be happening with PC games? Read on...
The PS4 is solidly in first place
Sony got a jump on the competition by announcing a day prior to the NPDs that the company had sold over seven million PS4 worldwide. Thats a crazy good number that puts Sony in a strong position that was only solidified by these more recent stats. The NPD Group announced that the PS4 had been the top-selling console in the US for three months straight, a feat that PS3 wouldnt come anywhere close to matching in its first year.
Console numbers are nice, but ultimately its all about content and the PS4 has the edge in the US too. True, an Xbox One game took the top spot (more on that next slide), but Infamous: Second Son was in a close second (no pun intended). Additionally, multiplatform titles like Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes and NBA 2K14 sold more copies on PS4 than Xbox One. Even Call of Duty: Ghosts sold more next-gen copies with Sony, and thats a franchise that many consumers connect with the Xbox brand. This console race is just getting started, but its safe to say that Sony is firmly in the lead.
Even with Titanfall selling well, Xbox One falls short
If the PS4 is in the lead, that puts Xbox One in a less than desirable position, particularly when March seemed to be a watershed month for Microsoft. Titanfall has been marketed heavily since its reveal at last years E3, distinguishing itself as one of MSs strongest exclusives--its even bundled with the system. And Titanfall did take the NPDs top spot, though would it have been able to do it without combining sales across Xbox One and PC?
Titanfall was meant to rally flagging Xbox One sales, which it did do in both the US and UK, (March saw 311,000 systems sold in the US compared to Februarys 258,000), but I cant help but that think that Microsoft was hoping for more. At the same time, Microsoft announced it had sold five million Xbox Ones to retailers, which is far behind Sonys seven million, and its even worse when Sony states that the PS4 numbers are whats been sold to consumers, not retailers, a better gauge of whats doing well with your audience.
Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls showcases NPDs PC blind spot
Marchs NPD report does a great job at clarifying the hardware picture, but its becoming increasingly unhelpful for software. In the new digital age, the NPDs focus on retail misses a number of strong downloadable titles. MGS5: Ground Zeroes was sixth place, but Konami made a big digital push with that title, so where would it be with downloadable sales? Would South Park have surpassed Infamous if Steam sales were taken into account? And its Blizzards recent Diablo expansion that really illustrates the NPDs download problem.
Blizzard already announced that Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls had cleared 2.7 million units in March, which almost certainly would put it near the top of the charts, if not number one outright. But despite there being a physical release, Diablo 3 had far more download sales, which is standard for most PC titles. The NPDs are giving an increasingly inaccurate snapshot of software sales that only worsens as day and date digital become the norm on consoles. If the NPD Group is in danger of becoming an unreliable source if it doesnt start getting access to digital numbers realsoon.
PS4 and Xbox One are already outdoing their last-gen counterparts
Frequently you see quotes from analysts, speculators, and even actual gamers that predict the oncoming end of the console market as we know it. As they see it, the console market will soon be enveloped by the power of phones, tablets, Free-to-Play, and whatever else is hot with the more casual crowd. But the stats for the first five months of both the PS4 and Xbox One are bucking that trend, both outdoing their predecessors early months.
To quote NPD analysts Liam Callahan, cumulative sales of the two consoles through the first five months currently [total] more than double that of their predecessors, the PS3 and Xbox 360. Now, it could just be a case of PS4 and Xbox One having a better supply chain than the PS3 or 360 had in their first five month, but could that really be the only factor for such comparatively high sales? Despite some wanting to say were nearing the end of consoles, Id say selling more than twice as many systems right out the gate would indicate more demand for hardware than in 2005-2006, not less.
The Wii U is still in second place (barely)
The March NPD report didnt have much good news for the home of Mario. No Nintendo games broke into the top 10 that month, though unconfirmed reports say that Yoshis New Island got close. Those same believable (though unsubstantiated) reports say the 3DS sold 159K and the Wii U 70K units, which is better than Vitas rumored 10K, but thats not a great measuring stick for success. And the numbers also show that the Wii U seems destined to officially enter third place very soon.
When Nintendo found itself in a bit of a financial crisis this January, they announced that the Wii U had sold 5.86 million worldwide. With numbers like 70K in the US along with similar stats in Japan and Europe for the past couple months, its safe to assume the Wii U is close to or has surpassed six million systems, putting it a million ahead of Xbox One and a million behind PS4. Not so great for a system that had a year of lead time on the competition, and unless something drastic changes soon, Microsoft is on pace to surpass Nintendo, putting the Wii U in the same last place position the GameCube suffered from.
Looking at the bigger, global picture
What do all these monthly US stats mean in the worldwide marathon that is the next generation of consoles? First, both Microsoft and Sony used this event to release new global sales stats, giving everyone a clear vision of where both stand in the current market. And knowing US sales also gives a hint to what an uphill climb the Xbox One currently has against the PS4 right now.
Last generation the 360 and PS3 were basically neck-and-neck in final global sales, with 360 on top in the US while Sony outpaced it in Europe and Asia. The PS4 is continuing Sonys strong performance with Japanese and European audiences, while also outdoing Microsoft in the US for the last three months. The case could be that this discrepancy is caused by the Xbox One only being out in a third of the territories that the PS4 is sold in, but if you think that the Xbox One will do gangbusters in Japan, you havent seen the 360s Japanese sales. To say reclaiming America is crucial for Microsoft would be an understatement.
Cash rules everything around me
Now that youve been thoroughly informed about the fallout from Marchs NPDs, you probably have your own opinions to share. Well, thats why we include a comments section! Get in there and share your insights with the world.