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The Divnich Tapes: Mario Kart Wii, GTA IV To Bring April Records?

Continuing this month's Gamasutra-exclusive NPD analysis, Jesse Divnich looks at April predictions for big-ticket relases like Grand Theft Auto IV, Mario Kart Wii, and Grand Turismo 5 Prologue, as well as low expectations for Ca
[Throughout this week, ex-simExchange analyst Jesse Divnich is presenting exclusive Gamasutra analysis of March's hardware and software trends, using data from The simExchange, NPD, IGN GamerMetrics and GameTrailers. Following our study of sustaining FPS sales amid multiple AAA releases, today's analysis has high expectations for GTA IV, Mario Kart Wii, and Grand Turismo 5 Prologue in April, but low predictions for Capcom's Okami.] To no surprise, Grand Theft Auto IV (GTA IV) is expected to lead April's NPD results by a large sum, as it is unanimously ranked as the top-most draw among all three data outlets - The simExchange, IGN GamerMetrics and GameTrailers. Following GTA IV are the long anticipated Mario Kart Wii and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, both of which are ranked in the #2 and #3 spots among new releases from all three data sets, respectively. Here's the full simExchange prediction numbers for April game hardware and software:
TSE-April.JPG

Unlike previous months - where we could deeply analyze various software battles - April proves to be different. This is because major publishers have apparently conceded that GTA IV and Mario Kart Wii will reign supreme, and have thus avoided releasing any major titles in April. Sony's Gran Turismo 5 Prologue could be considered the exception, given the game is essentially a giant demo - recent Chart Track figures from the UK indicate a successful release in that territory. Gamasutra has also obtained the IGN GamerMetrics and GameTrailers mindshare and stream view specifics. These reveal what information gamers have been viewing on those respective sites ahead of the April releases debuting, and run down as follows:

GM-GSS-April.JPG

In terms of industry records, if The simExchange projections prove true, we can expect a few new records to jot down into the books for April NPD. In particular: 1. It will be the first time this generation that a game SKU will surpass 1 million units on all three next-generation systems (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii) in one NPD-tracked month. For reference, December 2007 had four 1+ million unit sellers, but none from the PS3. 2. It will be the first time that the U.S. game industry surpasses $1 billion in software sales in an off-season (that is, non-holiday) month. 3. It will be the first time a PlayStation 3 game will place in the top two spots for an NPD month. Wii Okami - Whither Sales? Also interesting this month is the data we can pull on Ready At Dawn's Wii conversion of Clover's PlayStation 2 cult classic Okami. The Wii version will have its first month of recorded sales in April. According to Metacritic, Okami for the Wii currently holds a 90 Metacritic score, but unfortunately, even with quality scores, consumer data from GamerMetrics and GameTrailers are indicating a middling sales reception. There are likely numerous factors hindering Okami’s sales, the most obvious being the impending release of Grand Theft Auto IV and Mario Kart Wii, but this isn’t the only factor playing a limiting role. As we will see in another feature this week, one of the false impressions about Wii games is that we tend to think that there is a strong correlation between quality scores and sales quantity. This is mostly true for the PS3 and Xbox 360, but in the case of the Wii, quality scores may reflect the tastes and knowledge of the reviewers, but not necessarily those of the Wii game-buying public. We'll look at this further in our next columns. [NOTE: "This month's Divnich Tapes were prepared during my ending term as the Analyst at the SimExchange. Next month, I look forward to a new format and expanded analytics with the utilization of the extensive data available to me as the new Director of Analytical Services at Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR). The following is the views and opinions of one person and not of EEDAR, The simExchange, GamerMetrics, or Gametrailers."-- Jesse Divnich.]

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