No Pigskins? Decline.
It was a hairy situation for football fans this year. The fate of the 2011
NFL season was in limbo due to the recently averted NFL lockout. Players and
owners couldn’t see eye to eye on who gets paid what and fans wondered if they
would need to switchover to that arena football action. The drama got even more
intense when legal officials got involved. On April 25th, U.S. District Court
Judge Susan Richard Nelson (District of Minnesota) tossed out the lockout and
ordered the NFL back into operation (collective bargaining agreement or not).
League officials protested to the Eighth Court of Appeals and 4 days later the
court stayed Judge Nelson’s ruling resuming the lockout (ruling invalidated
altogether on July 8th).
By July, retired NFL players added their own lawsuit against the NFL (in
solidarity with the current players) and New York Attorney General Eric
Schneiderman sought investigation into possible antitrust violations on the
NFL’s part. And just when the struggle between the millionaires and the
billionaires looked permanent, suddenly it was over. An agreement was made on
the last week of July and the season was back on (with only one cancelled
casualty, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game). The national sports religion
would get to save economies of all kinds one more time.
But there’s one economy the NFL season would not get to save and that’s the
videogame industry’s according to the latest figures from The NPD Group. August
is traditionally Madden month in the world of videogames but with the
uncertainty of the NFL situation, the yearly football simulation was similarly
left in limbo. By the time the NFL issue was settled, Madden NFL 12’s release
had to be pushed back to August 30th…just outside of the August NPD tracking
period (July 31st to August 27th). Because of this, overall sales for the month
were quarterback sacked. Once again, sales have reached the lowest point since
October 2006 (which stood at $642 million)! That’s the 3rd time this year! Lower
than May, lower than July. October 2006 is used as the measurement since that
was the last month before Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s PlayStation 3 entered the
market. When sales get as low as this WITH all 3 competitors in the market, you
know it’s bad. Lockout on the Blackout! Let’s reenter negotiations and come to
terms with this month’s guesstimates
from the NPD.
Microsoft’s XBox 360 successfully argued down the ref’s call with 308,000
corset-waisted time wasters sold in August, month of Martin Luther King Jr.’s
Dream Day. In July, month of Independence Day, Console X sold 277,000 of its
leading kind showing a small increase. The 360 is still the king of home
consoles for the 8th month in a row (read that as the entire year so far). The
U.S.A. console definitely rules the U.S.A. market. How is it doing in the rest
of the world, I wonder? It’s still a non-factor in Japan and is slightly under
2nd place Wii in the overall Europe/PAL-TV market. This reality only makes it
more important that the 360 secures the American market for itself.
The Japanese situation is so bad that retailers in the region are taking 360
games and consoles off the shelves. After 5 ½ years on the Japanese market, the
system has only sold a little over 1.5 million consoles (the poor-selling 3DS
sold that in about half a year). But Microsoft refuses to throw in the towel
and, desperately, is putting out a bundle featuring a 250GB console plastered
with a Monster Hunter Frontier logo on the box. It’s a trial pack for that
online massive multiplayer which gives you a download code to play a sample of
the game and get free in-game armors and weapons. Oh, Monster Hunter is big biz
in Japan. Ask the PSP.
But that’s probably too little too late so it’s up to America to keep the
system strong. Here’s one way to get it done. For a limited time, there will be
a special Kinect bundle featuring Kinect Adventures! and a code to download
Child of Eden all for the same $150 price. Microsoft has kept saying for months
how they would triple Kinect’s game library by the end of 2011 (along with
monthly Kinect-compatible XBox Live Arcade games to come). That can’t be a bad
thing with Gears of War 3 ready to kick off the 360’s fall season in September.
That rolls right into the holidays where games like 360 exclusive Forza
Motorsport 4 (October) and highly anticipated multi-platform The Elder Scrolls
V: Skyrim (November) will help boost software and hopefully hardware (don’t
forget about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3). Perhaps this boosted audience can
be added to the nearly 35 million users of XBox Live that Microsoft announced.
Can the 360’s fall/holiday momentum help pick up what looks to be a sagging
year? This is the 360’s test. Are they a true leader or are they just the neck
of a headless body? Whether head or neck, it will have a matte-black finish. Say
goodbye to the glossy shiny stuff in the next few weeks. That stuff costs!
Nintendo’s 3DS luckily dodged a penalty with 235,000 price-plummeted
platforms sold in the month of Roller Coaster Day. In the month of All or
Nothing Day, the 3DS sold an unknown unreported amount of consoles which most
likely shows a strong increase. There’s no telling what the 3DS sold last month
but Nintendo’s silence suggests a sad 5-digit figure in the ten-thousands
column. So that must mean this month’s total is a positive sign, right? Right?
Wrong. The only thing that’s surprising about drastic price drops is if the
product DIDN’T sell any better. I drop a product’s price down by $80 and there’s
no way I SHOULDN’T see a boost. Hewlett-Packard is another recent example of
this kind of event. After making the decision this August to exit the personal
computer business (blame Apple’s iPads and iPhones), HP price dropped their
tablets from $500 to $100 in a fire sale that showed shoppers blazing into
stores for the ‘suddenly’ red hot gadgets. Going out of business and selling
your stuff in emergency clearance is not the sign of a healthy boost. If
anything, the boost wasn’t high enough for the level of price cut.
But what could be expected? I left this out last month (so much was going on
with 3DS) but in July President Satoru Iwata said that the 3DS’ software wasn’t
strong enough for the system’s launch. Really? Really now, Iwata. You don’t say.
Hopefully, Nintendo’s hometown fall/holiday lineup can foster lasting
improvement for the handheld. Currently selling pretty much on the strength of
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, September sees another remake in Star
Fox 64 3D, October sees Tetris: Axis and Pokémon Rumble Blast, November sees the
eternally-awaited Kid Icarus: Uprising and Super Mario 3DLand, and December sees
the surefire Mario Kart 7. With that and the other 3rd party support, 3DS
finally gets a chance to become ‘strong’. A price like that and a lineup like
this should give the handheld a lasting boost for years to come. Oh, and it
can’t hurt to put out a new color so it can become even stronger. On September
9th, North Americans get to own the Flame Red model of 3DS (already released in
Japan this July as the Flare Red). Colors, lower price, and better lineup. THIS
is how the 3DS should have launched. The new handheld’s problems can still
somehow be fixed but time is absolutely essential. They have a breather with the
PlayStation Vita not in the American picture this year so now’s the time to hit
it strong, hit it fast. There’s simply no other option with the state the
company’s in right now. 3DS MUST succeed...or else.
Sony’s PlayStation 3 disputed the referee’s call in timeout with 218,000
price-dropped PlayStations sold in the month of National Radio Day. In the month
of Pandemonium Day, the system that only does everything sold 148,000 of its
striving kind showing a good increase. FINALLY! On August 16th, Sony threw
shoppers a bone by dropping the PS3’s price by $50 (both 160 GB and 320GB
models) at the end of their Gamescom conference. How long have I been calling
for them to drop the PS3’s price? Oh yeah, since last
December and this
January. Hmm, it’s a pretty skimpy
drop though. Only $50?? If they dropped it by $100, they could have had the
160GB model for $200, the 320GB model for $250 and really put the pressure on
the XBox 360. Maybe it’s all they could afford with Vita’s production costs and
the damage from April’s hack attack. I’ll take what I can get!
Skimpy or not, it should give the PS3 a leg up for the next few months at
least. September will bring PS3 fans the exclusive Resistance 3; October will
bring Batman: Arkham City (sequel to 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum); while
November will bring the exclusive Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, Assassin’s
Creed: Revelations, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and of course, Call of Duty:
Modern Warfare 3. Pretty meat lineup and a good way to anchor down the rest of
the year. And with ‘Kevin Butler’ back in the Sony fold (quit by Twitter on the
26th, returned to Sony on the 30th in new commercial), PS3 fans will certainly
be saying “Long Live Play…Station” all through 2011. Even LG Corp. dropped its
beef with Sony with the two agreeing to a cross-licensing deal over the disputed
patented technologies (including Blu-ray). See there? Drop the price and look at
all the good stuff that comes your way, Sony.
On Sony’s handheld front, 3DS gets some much needed breathing room as
PlayStation Vita’s launch has been pushed back to 2012 in all regions except
Japan (promised to see the system by the end of 2011). Sony’s President-to-be
Kaz Hirai says that it will be EARLY 2012 so the wait won’t be too much longer.
Strangely, Sony still keeps plugging away with the waiting-for-burial PSP. Later
this year, Europe will get yet another version of the PlayStation Portable
called the E-1000 (with matte-black finish) which will only cost €99.99 (opposed
to PSP-3000 model’s €129.99)! What’s the catch? No Wi-Fi capability. WHAT?! What
sense does that make? Just let the PSP 3000s & PSPgos finish it out for God’s
sake. Also it will only have mono speakers, no more stereo. Just nonsense. Bad
habits are to break I see.
Nintendo’s Wii saw the flag thrown down on the play with 190,000 wayward
widgets sold in the month of National Smile Week. In the month of National Gummi
Worm Day, the faded revolutionary sold 190,000 of its waning kind showing no
change. To some this may mean stability. But to those in the know Wii’s sales
this month are depressing. And not just because they just missed the 200,000
mark either (for the 3rd time). After a retailer-led price drop to $169.99 upon
confirmation of Wii’s successor this April, Nintendo made an official drop to
$149.99 in May. However, Wal-Mart not content with that price tag took it upon
themselves to price drop Wii further to $134.96 in August. Who’s gonna tell the
biggest retailer on Earth what to do? So far, it looks like Wal-Mart’s acting
alone in this but as the biggest retailer their act can have great impact on Wii
sales. So why with that special discount did Wii only sell the same as last
month? And it’s not because NPD has no direct access to Wal-Mart’s numbers.
Wal-Mart lifted that old restriction in July. Now you’re beginning to understand
why it’s depressing. Wal-Mart’s drop may have helped Wii get UP to that 190,000
To get uplifted from this depression, Nintendo adds more choice games to its
$19.99 ‘Nintendo Selects’ lineup. How ‘bout this? Super Paper Mario, Mario
Strikers Charged, Punch-Out!!, and Super Mario Galaxy! That’s a helluva deal
right there! These 4 titles along with the original 4 (Wii Sports, Animal
Crossing: City Folk, Mario Super Sluggers, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight
Princess) show a strategy Nintendo can use to bring a little more excitement to
the fading Wii platform. Also, Nintendo is gearing up for The Legend of Zelda’s
25th Anniversary with a new website and
an official release date for Zelda: Skyward Sword. The anticipation-loaded game
will debut on November 20th in standalone form for $49.99 or a special bundle
featuring the game and a limited edition golden Zelda-styled Wiimote Plus for
$69.99. BOTH standalone and bundle versions will include an audio CD with live
performances from the upcoming Zelda 25th symphony concerts. Love and
happiness!! By the way, these concerts begin on October 21st in Los Angeles at
the Pantages Theatre (tickets start at $35) with an October 25th date in London
at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo. Full concert tour is set for 2012.
As for the fine folks of Operation Rainfall, Nintendo is beginning to hear
your pleas. With Xenoblade Chronicles already released in Europe for August and
The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower set for European release in 2012, Nintendo of
America President Reggie Fils-Aime made this comment about Operation Rainfall’s
game-localization campaign in a recent
“We will be watching very closely what happens in Europe. Certainly if there
are business opportunities and positive consumer uptake from some of those
titles, that will be great data for us to consider as we look at what to do with
If Operation Rainfall succeeds in convincing Nintendo to bring these titles
to North America, then this may set a precedent for enthusiast genres which get
buried in the commerce. Maybe they’d be able to do the impossible and finally
get Fatal Frame IV: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse on American store shelves. Wii
needs all the good games it can get now. What else is there to lose at this
How about backward compatibility? Wait, what?! Europe will soon get a new
smaller cheaper version of the Wii called the Wii Family Edition. It will come
packaged with Wii Sports and Wii Party. It will stand horizontally only instead
of either vertically or horizontally like the original Wii. It will not play
Gamecube games or use Gamecube peripherals (controllers, memory cards, and so
on). Wait a minute now! Wii is built directly from the Gamecube architecture.
The joke goes that Wii was just 2 Gamecubes duct taped together, that it was
just an overclocked reshaped Gamecube. How can you strip backward compatibility
out of that??? The worse news is that Nintendo is seeking to make this new Wii
the standard and phase out the original Wii. God! Nintendo! They better not
release this garbage in America, that’s all I gotta say. Nintendo’s totally
losing it, man. I can’t believe it.
Nintendo’s DS got ejected from the game selling 165,000 duplo-screens in
National Clown Week. In the month of Cow Appreciation Day, the DS Family sold at
least 290,000 of its various kinds showing possibly half its previous amount!
Look at this drop! The DS hasn’t sold numbers like this since the days before
the DS Lite model debuted (before June 2006). Does this mean that 3DS’s boost is
affecting DS sales? Or does it mean people just weren’t feeling the DS this
month never mind the 3DS? Ever since 3DS’s announcement in March 2010, DS sales
took an inevitable hit. But even after the successor’s debut this past March, DS
sales were decent. Can’t complain about a regular 200,000-300,000 range when a
system is going on 7 years old.
But Nintendo needs every bit of solid ground it can stand on right now. If
this trend with the DS continues, Nintendo won’t be able to lean on this console
as a PlayStation 2-like legacy machine that brings in easy money to weather the
hard times. Should that be the case, then that means 3DS has to finish the
succession and become the load-bearing beam it was intended to be. Either 3DS
has to become a success quicker or DS has to fade slower or both. DS will have
trouble as long as people see that the DSi XL costs exactly the same as the more
capable 3DS (which can play DS games). Nintendo needs to make another cut for
the giant DS and possibly implement a Nintendo Selects program for DS games too.
How can a company have it all then lose it all so easily? Especially this
company. It’s sad to watch.
Reviewing the instant replay, the U.S. videogame industry returned $648.9
million ($669.9 million including PC portion) in total sales for August, a 21%
fumble from last August. Of this more than half-a-million figure, total hardware
sales downed 12% to $249.4 million while total software sales grounded 34% to
$264.8 million. In parallel, total accessory sales goaled 1% to $134.7 million.
What a difference a Madden makes!
For the year-to-date, the industry touched back 7% to $7.91 billion [$8.17
billion including PC portion] (hardware: down 3% to $2.63 million; software:
down 11% to $3.86 billion; accessories: up 6% to $1.41 billion). Remember what
we learned, all percentages refer to year-to-year comparisons between August
2011 and August 2010.
Onto the games. Top dog this month was Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the third
in the series and prequel to original cyberpunk classic that started it all.
Without Madden in the way, August gets some new blood. Football wasn’t far
behind though with NCAA Football 12 bringing you that college action. FPS fans
were still rezurrecting Black Ops’ new map packs. But oddly enough 7 out of the
10 titles were either Nintendo exclusives or most dominant on Nintendo
platforms. How did Phineas and Ferb get to #4? Is Cars 2 really that good? How
did Just Dance: Summer Party outrank the evergreen Just Dance 2? Is there ANY
movie or franchise LEGO can NOT do? How long can Ocarina of Time 3D hold up the
3DS by itself? And what kind of party is Zumba running away?
Negotiations went well? A new deal has been agreed upon? Good. Let’s get back
on that field, gentlemen. Play ball!
NPD’s Top Reported Hardware Sales
Microsoft XBox 360 – 308,000*
Nintendo 3DS – 235,000**
Sony PlayStation 3 – 218,000†
Nintendo Wii – 190,000**
Nintendo DS – 165,000**
NPD’s Top Ten Combined Software
Sales in August
01. Deus Ex: Human Revolution (X360, PS3, PC) – 244,000*
02. NCAA Football 12 (X360, PS3) – 240,400*
03. Call of Duty: Black Ops (X360, PS3, DS, Wii, PC)
04. Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd (DS, Wii, PS3)
05. Cars 2 (DS, Wii, X360, PS3, PC)
06. Just Dance: Summer Party (Wii)
07. Just Dance 2 (Wii)
08. LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game (Wii, X360, DS, PS3, 3DS, PSP,
09. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (3DS) – 84,000*
10. Zumba Fitness: Join the Party (Wii)