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January 2010 NPD Monthly Videogame Sales Figures
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January 2010 NPD Monthly Videogame Sales Figures

Holiday fatigue snows under the industry as videogaming enters a new decade!

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January 2010. The start of a new month, a new year, a new decade. For the 428th year in a row, we’re keeping Pope Gregory XIII’s time-measuring tradition alive (who do you think the Gregorian calendar was named after anyway?). In the year 2010 A.D. a new odyssey begins. The future is HERE, you hear that George Jetson?! THIS Anno Domini we’ll do…uh, just about the same things we do every other Anno Domini. More failed resolutions, more broken promises, more unfulfilled pledges. Creatures of habit don’t do ‘new’ too easily. But oh how we try. By the way, what do we call this new decade anyhow? The Twenty-Tens? The Two Thousand Tens? Certainly can’t be as confusing as last decade, that’s for sure. The 2000s = The Two Thousands? That’s the same name as the century, isn’t it? The 2K Double-Os? Future retro music compilations will definitely have their hands full figuring that out!

But things were much easier to understand in the videogame industry with the latest figures from The NPD Group, Inc. All this newness on the calendar did nothing to do away with the oldness on those sales charts. The old hierarchy is back, laddies and gentlewomen. Nintendo is the sesame seed bun on top, Microsoft’s the meat in the middle, and Sony’s the soggy bun on the bottom. For one of that Sony trio, it’s just a mere ranking thing not so much a telltale of performance. But for the other two…yeeeeek. Well then. Start this new calendarial odyssey right by checking off these estimates for NPD’s USA realm.

Nintendo’s Wii had the design of the decade with 465,800 Mushroom Kingdom masterpieces sold on the first month of the 2010s. On the last month of the 2000s, the world wonder that is Wii sold (whew) 3,810,000 of its record-smashing kind showing the usual after-holiday decline to the tune of 1/8 December’s total. After such a blowout December, Wii was satisfied selling near the half-a-million range. Any backstock accumulated during the slower months of last year were cleared out by Christmas. In fact, there are reports that Wii may temporarily be back to that dreaded out-of-stock syndrome it’s well known for. $199 price + New Super Mario Bros. Wii = Sold Out.

However, there are those who see a number a little under a half-a-million and see doom with its ugly brother gloom. Last January’s sales were 679,200 while January 2008’s total was 274,000 (this January matches up with January 2007’s 436,000). I think the Avatar 3D specs may have damaged their vision (you’re supposed to take them off after you leave the theater, guys). They’ve been looking at Wii all last year and kept seeing the sky falling down. Doom! Gloom! Well, the ongoing success of the Wii proves as always that those Chickens mean Little.

Nintendo’s DS stayed true to its New Year’s resolution by selling 422,200 Desis for Lucy in the month when lofty promises are made. In the month when lofty presents are traded, Dual Screen Design No. 3 sold 3,310,000 of its two-camera kind showing another post-holiday decrease of about 1/8 December’s total. Fresh off its best-selling year ever (best-selling year of any console in industry history), the DS clocks in another 400,000-type figure. Not so far off from another half-a-million U.S. tally. What will happen to the sales figures when DS #3 part B makes its North American debut a few months from now? I’m talking about the DSi XL, the large-sized sub-design of the 3rd version of the DS. The ‘i’ in DSi represents a DS tailor-made for the individual but the XL addresses readability for players who can’t see all the small stuff on those portable screens. Nintendo is doing its best to make sure that as many people as possible will have a DS of their own. And let me tell ya, they’re doing a good job of it too.

Microsoft’s XBox 360 witnessed a winter wonderland selling 332,800 massive effects in the month named Ianuarius. In the month named December, the Silicon Valley pirate’s gaming gambit sold 1,310,000 X-Blocks showing yet another post-holiday decrease of 1/4 December’s total. Back and forth Microsoft and Sony go in the fight for the silver medal. The XBox 360 has as always been, true to its signature color, a sure and steady tortoise against the market hares. Characteristic for the console, big software debuts for a one to two month period lead to relatively unchangeable hardware sales. Its customer base tends to pile on early then look for the next big thing to pile on as it leaves the last pile. Leads to much green but not so much evergreen, if you know what I mean. Also characteristic of the 360 is mostly how its library preaches to the already converted.

In its home territory and strongest sales-region, the U.S.A., it has maintained this reliable rhythm since its 2005 premiere. But Sony has no quit in them yet so in order to keep them at bay, this full circle (360°) bets all its chips on Project Natal. The beginning of this new decade will see some of the heaviest forceful marketing from 360’s motion-play adventure.

Sony’s PlayStation 3 sung “We Shall Overcome” while selling 276,900 black phoenixes in the month of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth. In the month celebrating Jesus Christ’s birth, PS3 under the Slim-Fast plan sold 1,360,000 second-wind systems showing the usual post-holiday decline of 1/5 December’s total. PS3’s digits in the thousands column last month created the opportunity for a timely pun (PS3’s got the 360’s number. Ha!). But the 360 edged them out for the January holiday aftermath. This is not a bad thing for the PS3, however. This January was the best January the PS3 has ever had. Certainly better than last January’s 203,200 figure and right in league with the strong 200,000 range figures it has had in the past. But unlike the past Januarys, the PS3’s in the midst of a legitimate rising trend.

If the PS3 can keep up this pace into the launch of God of War III and Final Fantasy XIII’s North American introduction (both coming in March), they may be able to better withstand the coming onslaught of Project Natal’s marketing maelstrom. It won’t be easy and they still have to market their own response to the Wii with their FULL-FLEDGED (sorry Sixaxis) motion controller (is it really the Arc?). Somebody put another quarter into the life of the PS3 and hit Continue. Will this Heimlich maneuver result in new sustained breath for the console in 2010 or will they do like many a sports team has done at the big game and choke?

Sony’s PlayStation Portable was frozen solid selling 100,100 Go-Bots in the thick of winter. In winter’s solstice, the gaming ghetto savior sold 654,700 Hirai handhelds showing one more expected after-holiday decline of over 1/6 December’s total. OK, let’s get the obligatory count out of the way first. It’s now Month 17 of yearly comparative decline for the PSP. With that over and done with, let’s look at this January total: One hundred-thousand one hundred. Not only is that the lowest January the PSP has ever pulled (lower than their first January in the U.S. market with 180,000 in 2006) but this number just struggles to stay in the 6-digit territory! It’s a given that the PSPgo has been a worldwide failure but what about the older PSP models? Why aren’t the Slim & Lites improving?

The system seems to only hold its own in its Japanese homeland where it’s competitive in both hardware and software sales. Everywhere else it’s like the system emits repulsive gasses to keep people far away. December 2009 saw the system’s 5th anniversary and it will see its 5th full year in the North American market this coming March. But what can spark up PSP’s dimming hopes for 2010? What software, what features will pull customers over to the PSP side this year? I see nothing on the horizon. Nothing at all. Will Sony give up on the PSP and leave satisfied with the factoid footnote of “best-selling non-Nintendo handheld console in history”? Will Sony try a redesign of the PSPgo? Or will Sony make a totally brand new handheld successor to takeover from the PSP? If this number starts hitting the 5-digit range on a regular basis, expect the execs to be mulling over these types of questions.

Sony’s PlayStation 2 got smacked in the knee by Old Man Winter’s cane with 41,600 ol’ skool PlayStations sold in Month #1 with the 12th day of Christmas. In Month #12 with the 1st day of Christmas, the PS Double sold 333,200 nifty ninety-niners showing a hilarious after-holiday decrease of 1/8 December’s total. Uh oh. It’s time. This is probably the last year the PS2 will exist in the U.S. market. These sales are low even for the PS2. We’ve gotten used to it staying comfortably in the 100,000 range defying the 7th gen scene stealers but with numbers like these it’s not far away from the Gamecube and Game Boy Advance numbers of 2007. And you know what happened to those two, right? Let’s see if it can survive until its 10th anniversary in March (I’m doubtful about its U.S. 10th anniversary in October).

In assembly, the U.S. videogame industry rolled up $1.17 billion in total sales for January, a 13% downhill from last January. Of this billion-dollar figure, total hardware sales powdered down 21% to $353.7 million while total software sales slushed down 12% to $597.9 million. At the same time, total accessory sales precipitated up 2% to $217 million. As you may know, all percentages refer to year-to-year comparisons between January 2010 and January 2009.

Let me take a moment to address some of the grousing I’ve been hearing from industry commentators about these January numbers. These people seem to want to blame the 13% dropoff all on Nintendo because their consoles only sold between 400,000 to 500,000 instead of 500,000 to 600,000. Nevermind that January usually always sees some kind of market fatigue from the Holiday aftermath. Nevermind that we’re still in a recession (is that what they call a depression nowadays?). Nevermind that supply adjusted for this economic reality was mostly depleted in December’s buy-ups. Nevermind that those numbers are still strong healthy numbers for Nintendo. Nevermind that there are 2 other major companies competing in this market with 4 other systems between them.

Imagine if Nintendo didn’t exist in this current market. Your dropoffs would have been far more dramatic than you could ever dream. You may very well not have had an industry at all since it would have been on its way to crashing by now. Neither the XBox 360 nor the PS3 have come close to matching the sales trajectory of the PS2 not in hardware or software. Every generation is supposed to grow upon the last one or at least match it. If the industry is so dependent on Nintendo to grow and make profit, then the problem is not Nintendo—it’s the industry.

OK, had to get that off my chest. As for the games, the Wii Triad seems to have added a new member making them a Squad or Quartet or something. That new member whose mustache shall remain nameless has quickly taken over as leader of this Wii Syndicate. Meanwhile on the XBox 360 front, soldiers rule the day to a massive modern effect for 40 days and 40 nights. The PS3 did its best to answer the call of duty while one of the Four Horsemen takes a walk on the dark side. Also, customers proved that dancing on the Wii was not a fluke.

It’s a new year. It’s a new decade. Time for a fresh start. Check out the future of the world of gaming while you think of Sir Arthur C. Clarke (Wikipedia it!).

NPD’s Top Hardware Sales in January

Nintendo Wii – 465,800
Nintendo DS – 422,200
Microsoft XBox 360 – 332,800
Sony PlayStation 3 – 276,900
Sony PlayStation Portable – 100,100
Sony PlayStation 2 – 41,600

NPD’s Top Ten Software Sales in January

01. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii) – 656,700
02. Mass Effect 2 (X360) – 572,100
03. Wii Fit Plus (Wii) – 555,700
04. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (X360) – 326,700
05. Mario Kart Wii (Wii) – 310,900
06. Wii Sports Resort (Wii) – 297,600
07. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PS3) – 259,000
08. Army of Two: The 40th Day (X360) – 246,500
09. Just Dance (Wii) – 191,900
10. Darksiders (X360) – 171,200

You thought the Top 10 of Year Twenty-Ten were something? Then check out Year Twenty-Ten’s Top 20! (new tongue twister!)

NPD’s Top Twenty Software Sales in January

11. Army of Two: The 40th Day (PS3)
12. Wii Play (Wii)
13. MAG (PS3)
14. Darksiders (PS3)
15. EA Sports Active (Wii)
16. Mario Kart DS (DS)
17. Bayonetta (X360)
18. New Super Mario Bros. (DS)
19. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story (DS)
20. God of War Collection (PS3)

About the Author: John Lucas