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Saturday, December 10, 2011

What we've learned from November U.S. video game sales

The holiday season is the biggest time of year for video game sales. With the month of November come and gone, here are few things to take notice of.

Hardware down, software up: According to NPD Group, hardware revenues were down 9 percent to $982.4 million, while software sales were up 15 percent to $1.67 billion. Hardware revenue shouldn't be too surprising, since the consoles are in their late stages of life when price drops generally occur. Software sales got a huge bump from big releases like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Xbox 360 is the new Wii: Xbox 360 sold a whopping 1.7 million units in November, reaching heights the Wii used to be making a few years ago. It's also the best November ever for the system. It's 6 years old, which is normally the end of a console's lifespan. But here it is breaking records. Microsoft has been pushing it to become an all-in-one media center, and it looks to be working. Oh yeah, the Kinect is a hot ticket, too.

The end of the Wii is coming: Nintendo reported Wii sales at more than 860,000. Don't get me wrong, those are decent numbers, but the Wii was topping well over a million units in previous Novembers. The release of the much-anticipated The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword helped give it a boost, with sales over 600,000 in its first week. But a severe games shortage has struck the Wii, especially from third parties, which are hurting sales. Nintendo can only do so much on their end with games like Zelda and Donkey Kong Country Returns. It's not the juggernaut it once was, as Xbox 360 is taking the spotlight. Also, Nintendo's new console, the Wii U, is on the horizon, maybe even coming out next year. Once released, it'll be time to put the Wii to bed for good.

3DS proving critics wrong: Nintendo's new handheld has been criticized greatly about how it just can't compete with smartphones. Why pay more for games when you can get all the fun for 99 cents? After sluggish sales after launch, Nintendo slashed the 3DS price to a more reasonable $170. Since then, sales have picked up. The 3DS sold 795,000 units in November, which brings its total past the 2.37 million units the DS originally sold in its first year in the U.S., according to Nintendo. And this is just eight months in and a big December still to go. Why the big sales? Well, the system is finally delivering on games. Super Mario 3D Land sold more than 625,000 units, making it the fastest selling portable Mario game in U.S. history. And Mario Kart 7 just released earlier this month. It's simple: Games sell systems.

Call of Duty is king of the world: Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 topped the software charts (no shocker). It sold 7 percent more than Call of Duty: Black Ops did in its first month last year, which puts it around 9 million copies across all platforms. For all the complaints about how Call of Duty is the same old shooter, people do not care at all. Battlefield 3 from EA was third on the list, and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was sandwiched between the shooters in 2nd.

PS Vita in trouble?: Sony reported a 70 percent increase from November 2010 in PS3 sales, which would put it around 900,000 units. Not bad, but compared to Xbox 360, they can't be too happy. PSP sales? Who cares? It's all about their new handheld, the PS Vita. Wait, it actually hasn't released yet. It will in Japan on Dec. 17, but won't in the U.S. until late February. OK, I get there's limitations on how much they can produce at once. Releasing worldwide requires lots of units up front and a lot of time and effort. Japan going through an earthquake probably didn't help the production of things. But man, missing the holidays has got to be a killer. November and December are the two most important months of the year. Sure, the 3DS didn't release until March in the U.S., but it didn't have any competition either. The PS Vita will be going up against two monster titles in Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7. Other games for the 3DS like Resident Evil: Revelations will be out, too. Don't forget about those dreaded smartphones either. The Vita looks to have a quality launch lineup, but it's also $250, which is a great price for what's in the handheld, but will people pay that when the 3DS is so much cheaper with quality games, too?

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