Friday, May 16, 2008

April NPD - Pachter was Wrong, and Regarding Fanboy Gloom and Doom

The cold, hard facts: April NPD US Sales Figures were released today. First post has the numbers:
http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=296026

"Hardware
PlayStation 2 124.4K
PlayStation 3 187.1K
PSP 192.7K
Xbox 360 188.0K
Wii 714.2K
Nintendo DS 414.8K

Top 10 VG Titles - April'08
Units*
360 GTA IV 1.85mm
Wii Mario Kart w/ wheel 1.12mm
PS3 GTA IV 1.00mm
Wii Play 360K
Wii Super Smash Bros. Brawl 326K
PS3 Gran Turismo 5: Prologue 224K
DS Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness 202K
DS Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time 202K
Wii Guitar Hero III 152K
360 Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 141K

*includes bundles, collector's editions, GOTY editions"
My take:

360 and PS3 sales were neck and neck for the first time in months. GTAIV on the Xbox 360 confirms that the US gaming population has chosen the Xbox 360 as their platform of choice for the highly rated sandbox/action game. Nintendo continues their sales dominance, which isn't really interesting anymore, nor is it news to me. Their successful-with-the-non-gaming-masses formula of simplistic gaming has really caught on, no doubt about that, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Predictions that the Playstation 3 would take off in sales and overtake the Xbox 360 because of GTAIV's release last April were completely and utterly wrong. The Playstation 3 only matched the Xbox 360, and if I'll be nitpicky about it, the Playstation 3 didn't even take the lead. In software sales for GTAIV, the Playstation 3 was utterly destroyed once again, with the Xbox 360 garnering over 1.8 million units and the PS3 only selling about a million flat.

The famous console pundit/analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan was completely wrong in betting on improved sales for the Playstation 3 for April, and these sales figures (cold hard facts) prove it. It goes to show you that real gamers are interested in games and not systems, and since the Xbox 360 does clearly have the larger lineup of highly rated games and a more diverse lineup of titles than the Playstation 3, it only takes common sense to figure out that Grand Theft Auto IV would do better on the Xbox 360. Consumers are smart; they'll pick the best investment and if they had to choose between a 360 or a PS3, the 360 at this time will always win, because it simply has more games. Its moments like these that make you wonder how these video game industry "analysts/experts" get hired for their jobs. I think sometimes that they release predictions on the market because they think that what they say can influence the video game market to move in a certain direction. And in that sense, they give out predictions that will probably be in favor of whatever business interests they have, or for the interests of their peers, investors or business clients. Perhaps Pachter or his business clients own stocks in Sony and they want the value of their long held investments to go up already, since they've been waiting so long for the Playstation 3's promised miracle of profits to already happen. Or they want their clients to start selling their Microsoft stocks (and if they broker stocks, that type of transaction would be profitable for them)....whatever the case, it's clear that a bit of common sense wasn't used by Pachter in figuring out what would happen when GTAIV would hit the market.

It's clear that Michael Pachter lives in a box of reality where past consumer behavior always determines the future, and made his prediction based on that. He must have looked at the data from the past, which said, "From the year 2002 onwards, the Playstation brand was immensely successful...", so that must mean, the Playstation 3 will be successful eventually, because their brand is well known, and it has so many "loyal" customers. He didn't consider the present, and how consumers have changed, or how Microsoft is really putting up an incredible fight against Sony in getting the core gamer, securing previously exclusive titles and continuing to improve their products and services. He also didn't consider all of Sony's screw-ups for this generation of consoles, from the late launch, to the lack of games, to the initiallys steep price of entry, and their cluelessness when it comes to the implementation of online play. Pachter stayed blind to Sony's crucial mistakes, remaining forever faithful to the ever-reliable analyst-tenet of "past behavior must determine the future". This failure of his is a huge blow to his credibility--and to the credibility of other analysts who don't really understand the gaming industry or its consumers.

It isn't the first time that Pachter has fouled up. During the Xbox 360's launch period he was one fo the system's biggest detractors, again encouraging the belief that when the Playstation 3 arrives it would easily overthrow Microsoft's second foray into the world of game consoles. His stance on Sony has never changed, and despite him being wrong so many times regarding how gamers would receive the Xbox 360 and its games, he has retained his belief that Sony will return to the forefront of console gaming. With the sales figures for GTAIV already out, it's clear that he has no business talking about the game industry, he has no idea how it works and he will never, ever give any accurate predictions on behavior of the market now or in the future.

****

And my other ramble is regarding the reaction to the hardware sales for the Xbox 360 and the PS3 for April from the Neogaf thread I posted. You'll see a lot of gloom and doom from the fanboys; that Nintendo will herald the death of gaming and the end of core games.

I think a lot of them are simply overreacting. For one thing, software sales still shows that gamers are still buying core games like COD4, Halo 3 or Gears. FPS titles or shooters are still 'hot' among a lot of core gamers, while sales of other types of core games like fighting games are on a steep decline. (Smash Brothers is a fighting game that is selling well and as such it is an exception; but I don't think it's a 'core' fighting game since it doesn't really take that much skill to play it. It's a button masher. Your mom could play it.).

I don't think April's sales figures already mean that we're looking at a Nintendo controlled future where every game will have some kind of waggle feature on it. To think that way would be to think no better than those analysts on the game industry who never seem to get it. The big picture is, a lot of core games where skill is required do still sell quite well. Software sales for the Xbox 360 clearly shows that the market is still healthy for these kinds of titles and while there will be casual games to occupy the time of the non-gamers, core games will never go away. It's just fanboy gloom and doom, and such opinions aren't worthy of any attention.

As it stands, GTAIV on the Xbox 360 is still on top for April 2008. If a Wii game would have beaten GTAIV on the date of the game's launch, now that would be alarming.