Exclusive: Platform-Specific Q1 U.S. Sales Reveal Notable Trends

Using exclusive NPD data, Gamasutra looks at the top selling U.S. retail games for each platform during the first quarter of 2010, from Modern Warfare 2's continued sales through Just Dance's surprising Wii strength.
[Using exclusive NPD data, Gamasutra's Matt Matthews looks at the top selling U.S. retail games for each platform during the first quarter of 2010, from Modern Warfare 2's continued sales through Just Dance's surprising Wii strength.] By the end of this week the NPD Group will have released its latest estimates of retail videogame sales in the United States for April 2010. Let us take stock of the first quarter of the year before that first measure of the second quarter arrives. Today -- utilizing data exclusively provided to Gamasutra by NPD -- the topic is software, including estimated units, dollars, and top software lists for the three main consoles. First-Party Domination Nintendo continues to dominate software on its Wii platform with three of its 2009 titles topping the chart. New Super Mario Bros. for the Wii launched in November 2009 and sold over 4.2 million units by the end of December, making it the third best-selling title for that year. Sales so far in 2010 have added approximately 1.7 million more units bringing its lifetime total to just shy of 6 million units as of the end of March. With April sales, New Super Mario Bros. has no doubt already surpassed the 6 million mark on the Wii. We believe the Nintendo DS version of New Super Mario Bros. now has sales of around 7 million units, based on available data.
As the chart above shows, Nintendo's update to its fitness package, Wii Fit Plus, is the second best-selling title on the Wii so far in 2010 with sales of around 1.1 million units. Total sales now reach nearly 4.7 million since it launched in October 2009. (A quick note about the rankings and software sales figures in this article. Except where noted otherwise, the charts provided here combine sales figures for different versions of the same title on the same platform. So, for example, the Wii Fit Plus listing includes both the standalone game and software packaged with the Wii balance board. Moreover, the rankings were confirmed by the NPD Group but the sales figures are estimates produced by us from available data.) With unit sales over 800,000 units Wii Sports Resort is the number three title on the Wii so far this year. Combined with its total in 2009, after its July launch, Wii Sports Resort has life-to-date sales of well over 5 million units. Sneaking in at the number four position is Ubisoft's hit, Just Dance, the only third-party to make this list. Just in 2010 we estimate that it has sold around 650,000 units, and according to Broadpoint AmTech analyst Ben Schachter, it has now reached 1 million units since its November 2009 launch in the U.S. Mario Kart for the Wii is final title in the top 5 for 2010, and it is one of Nintendo's greenest evergreen titles. Combat Games Dominate Xbox 360 and PS3 Three cross-platform games appear on the top-selling software lists for both Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3. The number two game on the Xbox 360 so far in 2010 is just such a title, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, published by Activision Blizzard. On that platform we estimate it has already garnered sales of 840,000 units, and has sold an additional 630,000 units on the PlayStation 3, where it is the third best-selling title in 2010. The other cross-platform games are Battlefield: Bad Company 2 from Electronic Arts and Final Fantasy XIII from Square-Enix. On the Xbox 360 Bad Company 2 has sold through an estimated 830,000 units while Final Fantasy XIII has shifted only 500,000. In contrast, the PlayStation 3 version of Final Fantasy XIII outsold Bad Company 2 on that platform with estimated unit sales of 830,000 and 450,000, respectively. The charts for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are shown below.
Each platform's chart is headed by a title exclusive to that system. In particular, the top seller on the Xbox 360 was Mass Effect 2, which has nearly reached sales of 900,000 units since its launch in January. The top title on the PS3 so far in 2010 is Sony's own God of War III, and it is the only million-seller on any non-Nintendo platform this year. BioShock 2 appears at the number four spot on the Xbox 360 chart with estimated sales of 600,000 units. While it is not exclusive to that system, the original game was a console exclusive on the Xbox 360 for a year, a fact that probably has helped propel sales of the sequel on that platform. Rounding out the PS3 list is MAG, another Sony exclusive, and yet another shooter. We note that one can get a sense of the strong contrast between the Wii and the HD consoles using these lists. Whereas Nintendo's list could be characterized as a platformer, a fitness package, a minigame collection, a music game, and a driving games the Xbox 360 and PS3 lists consist of RPGs, third-person action games, and shooters. Wii and DS Dominate Top 10 While we have not provided lists for the Nintendo DS, Sony PSP, or Sony PlayStation 2 we should note that Nintendo's handheld does make an appearance in the all-format top-selling software list for the first quarter of 2010. That list, shown below, reveals that the two versions of Nintendo's latest Pokemon game were the fourth and tenth best-selling titles for the year so far, with all of their sales coming in just the month of March.
Five titles for Nintendo platforms appear on this list, three for the Wii and two for the DS, all published by Nintendo itself. Three titles on the list are for the Xbox 360 while two are for the PlayStation 3. In its briefing to investors last week Nintendo published some additional data from the NPD Group on the top-selling software in the United States during the first quarter of 2010. The list provided by Nintendo differs from the one here in that it shows the top 30 titles but does not combine versions of the same game on the same platform. A side effect of this representation of the data is that the listings show a slightly different ordering. The listing published by Nintendo based on NPD Group data is shown below.
This extended list gives a clearer view of the shift in Sony's software fortunes on the PlayStation 3. So far this year, nine titles for the PS3 have made it into the top 30 all-formats list, and five of those were first-party titles. By comparison, only seven Xbox 360 titles placed on this listing. The remaining titles were of course for Nintendo's platforms – eight for the Wii and six for the Nintendo DS. Overall Industry Sales Figures Finally, we take stock of the key totals for the industry so far in 2010. While software revenue is down by 5 percent so far in 2010 compared to the same period in 2009, that one figure alone doesn't explain precisely how the market has changed. In particular, we note that average software prices are actually up a modest 1 percent, in spite of significant losses in the music game category. However, total unit sales are down 6 percent and as a result the entire software category is down from $2.2 billion in the first three months of 2009 to $2.1 billion in 2010. The table below shows the actual figures for 2009 and 2010, for your reference.
It is also instructive to look at the marketshare claimed by each platform so far in 2010 compared to the same time in 2009. The chart below shows our estimates for the dollar share of each major platform during the first three months of 2009.
From the platform stakeholder level, we estimate that Sony's platforms claimed just over 27 percent of the market in the first quarter of 2009 while Nintendo's platforms took nearly 47 percent. The remaining 26 percent of all software dollars in the first quarter of 2009 were spent on Microsoft's lone platform, the Xbox 360. (Note that these figures are first-party and third-party software combined. So, for example, the PS3 figures includes dollars for all software sold for the PS3 in the first quarters of 2009 and then for 2010, regardless of publisher.) In the first quarter of 2010, fortunes have shifted. Sony's older platforms, the PS2 and the PSP, have declined to only 2 percent and 2.6 percent of the market, respectively, while the PS3 has increased to an estimated 26 percent, giving Sony's platforms just over 30 percent of the total software market. The chart below shows these figures, as well as those for software for Nintendo's platforms and software for the Xbox 360.
The Wii's share of software dollars decreased significantly while the Nintendo DS increased its share. The net result was that software for Nintendo's platforms dropped about 3 points, down to 43 percent of all software dollars at the beginning of 2010. The share of software dollars spent on Xbox 360 titles in the first quarter of 2010 declined slightly from the same period in 2009. [Thanks to the NPD Group, and in particular Anita Frazier and David Riley, for assistance with the figures in this article. Also, thank you to Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter for his comments and monthly updates on industry sales.]

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