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February 2011 NPD Monthly Videogame Sales Figures and Analysis
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February 2011 NPD Monthly Videogame Sales Figures and Analysis

The hazy charts show a surprising turn of events with the industry and The Big Three’s home consoles all showing improvement.

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It’s February and love is in the air. Or is that revolution in the air? What had been brewing throughout the Arab world for some time spread to countries like Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Citizens marching in the streets demanded that their corrupt leaders release the reins of power. The People’s eviction notice was sent to Tunisia’s Zine Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Muammar al-Gaddafi (two of them got the message so far). It just goes to show that people can only be pushed so far before they push back in revolt. Wonder why this hasn’t happened here yet?

Americans might not have revolted but they sure bolted their way into stores for videogame products this month so says The NPD Group. Typical. Going against the general trend we’ve gotten used to over the past couple of years, sales actually went UP overall not only from a month-to-month comparison but even a year-to-year one. Especially hardware sales. The Big Three all did well in console sales making the console race look like it could be anyone’s to win. Seems like the only overthrows that happened here were when shoppers threw the goods over in the shopping cart. Thank you, income tax refunds. Gamers of the world unite! Rebel against the tyranny as we remove the fog from NPD’s guesstimates.

Microsoft’s XBox 360 received the Vince Lombardi Trophy selling 535,000 Xinexes in February, month of Super Bowl XLV. In January, month of Super Bowl I, the numerical revolution sold 381,000 of its on-a-roll kind showing a great increase! Great increase indeed seeing how much over January’s amount this February was! It was so great that it became the best-selling February the 360 has ever had (beating their February 2010 record of 422,000)! No, wait, that’s not quite good enough. It was so great that it became the best-selling non-holiday month the 360 has ever had! That beats their landmark September 2007 non-holiday record of 527,800 when Halo 3 made its then-record setting debut. Amazing.

And of course it goes without saying that this is the 2nd time this year it has topped not only the Wii but the entire console hierarchy altogether! After that December upset when the 360’s half-year streak of outdoing the once-invulnerable Wii was ended, the 360 got right back on its horse reasserting its claim to the console throne. Whether it’s Kinects bundled or looseleaf bringing in new buyers, whether it’s the new 360 design relieving old victims of the Red Ring of Death, this console has become a freight train.

Big name multi-platform games seem to be the 360’s bread and butter in software. The 360’s Kinect games, however, don’t quite show the presence of Wii’s games. This happens despite Microsoft’s aims to use Kinect to poach Wii’s audience. And Kinect games are pretty much all of the 360’s exclusives since 360 exclusivity nowadays is about as rare as legitimate 3rd party Wii support. Nevertheless, this current formula is working miracles for Microsoft’s machine right now. Will the 360 make more history in the upcoming 5-week tracked March?

Nintendo’s Wii got to know Washington and Lincoln quite intimately as they sold 454,000 Double Yew Eye Eyes in the month of Presidents Day. In the month Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Richard Nixon were born, the pronoun platform sold 319,000 Wiichamacallits showing another great increase! Much better Wii. Much better. This is more in line with Wii’s former illustrious form. Here’s a quick trip through Wii history: February 2007 (its first February) had 335,000; February 2008 had 432,000; February 2009 had 753,000; and February 2010 had 397,900. Now of course no one can expect it to match the best February in both Wii and home console history. But Wii not only improved over last month, it improved over last February and the other past Februaries. And all it did was feed off of its holiday lineup and Mario Sports Mix.

Much of this month’s boost for all the consoles is obviously income tax refund fever. When W-2s turn to 1040s, some take their windfalls and blow it on late Christmas gifts or just all-around luxury indulgences. But Wii can avoid the mid-year crater it has suffered the past 2 years if Nintendo puts the energy back into their sometimes forgotten product. As long as Nintendo is on 3DS Mania, Wii will suffer. The “conventional wisdom” about natural sales declines is not applying to the 5 year old XBox 360 and it doesn’t have to apply to the 4 year old Wii which has defied expectation throughout this entire generation. Nintendo take this opportunity to reestablish your momentum. Wii can blow their minds one more time.

Sony’s PlayStation 3 opened a card from its secret admirer with 403,000 moving gestures sold in the month of Saint Valentine’s Day. In the month of National Hugging Day, SCE Inc. sold 267,000 three-digit gigabyters showing yet another great increase! A good performance from the PS3 this month! Perhaps it was LittleBigPlanet 2 helping to give the PS Triple a lift. It certainly wasn’t Sony’s hacker ban from the PlayStation Network. Those poor Linux fans caught in the crossfire (selling feature? what selling feature?). Maybe LG Corp.’s international lawsuits seeking to ban PS3s from the market won the console some sympathy buys. Seriously now, LG suing SONY over Blu-ray patents??? Wasn’t Sony one of THE driving forces behind making Blu-ray an accepted format? Isn’t Sony an electronics house of its own and can create the components in-house? Weren’t these 2 companies founding members of the Blu-ray Disc Association which developed the technology in the first place? BIZARRE, man!

If Sony somehow weathers this potentially business rupturing crisis, they still have to contend with that nemesis of nemeses, the XBox 360. Will the legal fighting against LG get in the way of the very necessary PS3 price cut/software flood combo? Well for that matter, will Sony’s late December lawsuit seeking to ban LG’s smartphones for patent infringement do the same? Man this console was born under a bad sign! It’s been down since it began to crawl. If it wasn’t for bad luck, it wouldn’t have no luck at all. Props to the late great Albert King.

Oh, in other Sony related news…On February 27th, the PlayStation Portable (PSP-3000 version) received a long overdue price drop from $169.99 to $129.99 for the standalones and from $199.99 to $159.99 for the Entertainment Packs (bundles). It’s about time! That system had been at that price point for over 3 years! Not only that but they slashed prices on some of their games. Presenting PSP Greatest Hits for $19.99 and PSP Favorites for $9.99. With the PSPgo price drop from $249.99 to $199.99 from last November 1st, the PSP Clearance Sale is underway. Get them while supplies last. NGP is on its way.

Nintendo’s DS seemed to fall off the edge of the solar system with…um, what exactly…sold in the month of Pluto Day. In the month of Science Fiction Day, DS Triple Threat sold 291,000 of its soon-to-be-superceded kind showing um, I don’t know, they didn’t say. Why was the DS left off the charts this month? This system is still selling and is nowhere near the end of its lifetime. I’m telling you I’m tired of these NPD games!

This is the last month the DS will chart as Nintendo’s primary handheld. Next month comes the highly anticipated debut of the Nintendo 3DS. Expect a major major showing from both the DS and 3DS when Pokémon Black and White destroy the charts in March. Hopefully NPD will actually REPORT it this time!

United together, the U.S. videogame industry advanced $1.33 billion ($1.36 billion including PC portion) in total sales for February, a 4% rise from last February. Of this billion dollar figure, total hardware sales upheaved 10% to $466.9 million while total software sales shot down 5% to $601.4 million. In the midst of the chaos, total accessory sales rioted up 22% to $256.9 million. XBox Live points cards and, of course, Kinect are said to be the drivers behind the accessory bump. Ten dollar hikes mean nothing to the XBox Live fan!

In the year-to-date, the industry came to a virtual standoff at barely over 0% to $2.46 billion [$2.52 billion including PC portion] (hardware portion: up over 1% to $790.9 million; software portion: down 5% to $1.18 billion; accessories portion: up 14% to $432.8 million). Never forget that all percentages refer to year-to-year comparisons between February 2011 and February 2010.

On the game front, once again Call of Duty: Black Ops tops the ‘all platforms combined’ list. Not only that but if you combine all platforms Black Ops is on, it has become the best-selling U.S. videogame not bundled with console in history! That beats the record set by Nintendo’s Wii Play—the best-selling non-bundled U.S. game of 2008, of 2009, and the entire decade of the 2000s. To be able to achieve this feat only 3 months after its November debut is an amazing accomplishment. Outside of that history-making news, the worlds of Marvel Comics and Capcom Games come together in a fighting game fans have been waiting for over 8 years. They’re still just dancing on the Wii. Virtually every platform is playing NBA in the 2K11. Survival horror’s still going on in the dead of space. Zumba Fitness fans still prefer Wii over 360. Manufactured controversy earns Bulletstorm a place on the charts. The PS3 gets some exclusive facetime through Killzone 3. The King’s still giving gamers the Jackson experience. And who can pass up a healthy mix of Mario Sports?

Hopefully through the fog of revolution comes a meaningful change. For starters, we can take a stand against all of this tiresome NPD secrecy.

NPD’s Top Reported Hardware Sales in February

Microsoft XBox 360 – 535,000*
Nintendo Wii – 454,000**
Sony PlayStation 3 – 403,000†
Nintendo DS – ???

†Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter

NPD’s Top Combined Software Sales in February

01. Call of Duty: Black Ops (X360, PS3, Wii, DS, PC)
02. Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds (X360, PS3)
03. Just Dance 2 (Wii) – 554,000
04. NBA 2K11 (X360, PS3, PS2, Wii, PSP, PC)
05. Dead Space 2 (X360, PS3, PC) – 305,000*
06. Zumba Fitness: Join the Party (Wii, X360, PS3) – 301,000*
07. Bulletstorm (X360, PS3, PC)
08. Killzone 3 (PS3)
09. Michael Jackson: The Experience (Wii, DS, PSP)
10. Mario Sports Mix (Wii) – 200,000*

*Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter

About the Author: John Lucas