The Farmer Report: July 2008 NPD Analysis

August 15, 2008

NPD has released the monthly numbers for July 2008. Unlike last month, there aren’t any major market shifts or milestones being broken here, but there is still a lot of information that can be found in the current numbers, so let’s see what we can learn.

The NPD retail month of July is a 4 week month that started on Sunday, July 6th and ended on Saturday, August 2nd. Since July is a 4 week month like most NPD months, but others, including June, are 5 week months, most of the comparisons and trends will be drawn using weekly averages instead of monthly totals. This allows for a more accurate understanding of what’s happening that isn’t broken by different months covering different time spans. We’ll start at the top of the list and work our way down. The first number will be this month’s sales, followed by the weekly average in parentheses, then last month’s sales with the weekly average, and finally July 2007’s sales and weekly average.

DS: 608,000 (152,000)/783,000 (156,600)/405,000 (101,250)
At this point, it seems like the biggest question most months is whether the DS or the Wii will take the top spot. This month, it’s the DS. Ho-hum. Sales are down from last month, but a quick glance at the weekly numbers show that almost all of that drop-off is attributable to July being four weeks compared to June’s five. Otherwise the system continues to sell astonishingly well.

Wii: 555,000 (138,750)/666,000 (133,200)/425,000 (106,250)
If the DS’ drop was actually smaller than it looked when you account for July being four weeks long, the Wii’s not only vanishes but you can see its sales actually went up when compared to June. It also continues to outsell the PS3 and 360 combined. Now that it has passed the 360 in life to date sales, the Wii is eating into the PS3’s numbers to take control of over half the home console market. Between the Wii and the DS, Nintendo has sold over 7.8 million systems through the first 7 months of 2008 in the US alone. Think about that number for a bit. It’s also an interesting coincidence that the Wii has had two consecutive months where its sales were the same three digits in a row. Otherwise, there’s not much to say. It continues to smash every record in the book and shows no signs of slowing down. If you’re looking for a downside, this is the first time in five months the Wii hasn’t cleared 600,000 in a month. It’s still the 9th out of the last 11 where it cleared half a million though.

PS3: 225,000 (56,250)/405,000 (81,000)/159,000 (39,750)
The good news for Sony is that the PS3 again outsold the 360. The better news is compared to last year the system is doing fantastically, and it didn’t have a price cut boosting sales this year like it did in July 2007 (after which it promptly sunk back down again). The bad news is the sales bump from Metal Gear Solid 4 has already completely dissipated and they’re back in the 200,000-250,000 range they’ve hovered in most of the year. There pretty much no apparent residual sales increase compared to where the PS3 was selling before MGS 4 launched. Also, although the PS3 has outsold the 360 in 2008, the difference is less than 300,000 and has barely made any dent in the 5+ million gap in life to date sales. These numbers are not bad by any stretch, but to really re-emerge as a force in the US market Sony needs to find something to get them higher. Maybe not as high as the Wii, but at least high enough to begin meaningfully closing the LTD gap with Microsoft.

PSP 222,000 (55,500)/337,000 (67,400)/214,000 (53,500)
These numbers are off from June, where the God of War bundle presumably bumped hardware numbers, but more or less flat from May. Despite trying, I can’t really think of much else to say about the PSP. It exists, the hardware sells, but the software doesn’t. Life goes on.

360: 205,000 (51,250)/219,000 (43,800)/170,000 (42,500)
Again the difference in time frames turns what appears to be a slight slide in sales to a slight increase, but not a huge one. Given that the 360 had another price cut, even if it was just a fire sale on the now-discontinued 20 GB model, being outsold by the PS3 is not a good sign. Although its lead-in installed base is in no immediate danger, sales are stagnant and it hasn’t shown any real momentum this year at all. It just keeps trudging forward. Software sales remain strong, but the hardware isn’t making any waves at all. It will be interesting if the software update this Fall will do much to revitalize interest in the console.

PS2: 155,000 (38,750)/188,800 (37,760)/222,000 (55,500)
Sales are up slightly from last month when accounting for the extra week, but only very slightly. Sales dropped through the floor following the wider availability of Wiis, but appear to have stabilized between 30,000 and 40,000 units per week.

Now let’s turn to the software chart. First, though, I’ll put in my usual caveat that extrapolating the larger software market from the top 10 is impossible, and any attempts to do so will lead to wildly inaccurate perceptions of what’s going on. The top 10 list tells us far more about the games that did make it than about those that missed out.

1. 360 NCAA Football 09: 397,600
2. Wii Wii Fit W/ Balance Board: 369,600
3. DS Guitar Hero: On Tour: 309,700
4. Wii Wii Play W/ Remote: 284,000
5. PS3 NCAA Football 09: 242,500
6. 360 Soul Calibur IV: 218,900
7. Wii Mario Kart with Wheel: 174,500
8. Wii Rock Band Special Ed Bundle: 165,800
9. PS3 Soul Calibur IV: 155,800
10. 360 Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution: 147,600

NCAA Football debuted strongly, charting at number 1 on the 360 and number 5 on the PS3. The Wii version is unseen, although the critical savaging the game received likely had a lot to do with this. Wii Fit nearly topped the charts itself, and is still heavily supply limited. This one will be on the charts for months. Guitar Hero: On Tour held up extremely well, putting its total sales to nearly three quarters of a million in the US alone. Wii Play is still on the charts, and it probably will be for the life of the Wii. Soul Calibur IV also charted both versions on the top 10, doing nearly 400,000 in its first month. Mario Kart is still selling extremely well and will pass the GameCube’s Double Dash!! within two or three more months. Mario Kart 64 will take a while longer to catch though. The Wii version of Rock Band also made the top 10 this month after failing to do so last month. This one’s nearing 400,000 as well, despite being heavily stripped down compared to the HD releases. Finally, Civilization Revolution rounds out the top 10, giving the venerable PC strategy game a foothold on the console space. Neither the PS3 nor the DS versions charted, although this says effectively nothing about how well they actually sold.

The biggest gaming news next month will be the launch of Madden 09 across every platform known to God and man. Seeing how the various versions sell on different platforms should be particularly interesting. Last year the 360 version dominated August, although the PS2 came from behind to remain the best-selling platform. The PS3 also launched strongly, while the Wii version struggled, failing to outsell the release on the original Xbox. Their relative performances this year will likely be very informative on how the market has changed in the last year. In particular I expect that the Wii release will see a substantial surge compared to its mediocre performance last year. Otherwise we can look forward to seeing any lingering effects of the 360 fire sale (I don’t expect there to be much) as well as the continued legs of this month’s chart-toppers.