February 14, 2007 - Data from the NPD Group, the industry's leading tracker of videogame software sales, always arrives with a bang. Perhaps readers are interested in paralleling trends between software sales and the stocks they own, or maybe they're just looking to add fuel to the raging fanboy bonfire. Whatever the case, sales data is always hotly anticipated and followed and that being true, we've designed the Graphs features to offer readers a closer look at the latest NPD numbers. Our analysis of each week's new data comes alongside a handful of pretty bar and pie charts intended to demystify those pesky numbers.
Nintendo's Wii console kicked off to a very healthy start when it debuted last November. Positive press and strong reception from non-gamers ascended the platform to the top of the charts, easily besting Sony's PlayStation 3, which was only available in limited quantity due to manufacturing technical difficulties. As a result, Wii software sales were overall much stronger through the year - well ahead of PS3, but also notably short of Xbox 360, whose installed base was several times larger.
Today's Graphs feature looks specifically at the top sellers of the year for all three consoles. For Nintendo, the standout was predictable. The four-years-in-the-making Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess garnered sales of more than 935,000 units on Wii through December - and that was for America alone. The case could also be made that Wii Sports sold well in excess of a million units for the year since it was included as a pack-in with the system itself, but we'll discount the title for that very reason. By contrast, PlayStation 3's best-seller was Resistance: Fall of Man, an original first-person shooter from Sony. Some 286,000 copies of the title were purchased by PS3 owners through December. The sales gap between the two console leaders was immense. That being said, Nintendo had nothing on Microsoft, whose original third-person action game, Gears of War, tallied 1.5 million in sales for Xbox 360 through December.
These results are hardly surprising given the number of machines that sold for each respective platform through the year. In fact, they offer a fairly accurate representation of market penetration for each company for the period.
What is interesting, however, is the third party breakdown for both Wii and PS3. Although skeptics are quick to shrug Nintendo's system off as a "console for Nintendo games," the fact of the matter is that there were not only more third party titles available on Wii than PS3 in 2006, but many of these games also sold better on the Big N's platform.
Approximately 33 titles shipped for Wii before the end of 2006 and 30 of those games were supplied from third parties, including Electronic Arts, Activision, Midway, THQ and Atlus. By comparison, only 17 games debuted on PlayStation 3 in 2006 and third parties published 14 of them. Furthermore, only two third party PS3 games managed to sell more than 100,000 copies. Madden NFL 07 was PS3's number-one third party effort on PS3 with approximately 185,000 in sales. Incidentally, despite having a larger installed base, Madden sold slightly less on Wii with about 180,000 units. The numbers aren't incredibly different, especially since Nintendo fans have not traditionally flocked to the Madden franchise. PS3's second biggest third party seller, Call of Duty 3, amassed 110,000 purchases. The Wii version of the game, however, sold through 155,000 copies.
As the pie chart above showcases, Activision's Marvel: Ultimate Alliance also sold much better on Nintendo's console than it did Sony's - nearly double, in fact. Still, both versions were outpaced by the Xbox 360 version, which enjoyed sell-through at nearly twice that of Wii.
There is no denying that Nintendo fans do tend to buy Nintendo-made products. That all three of the Big N's games - Zelda, Excite Truck and Wii Sports - technically managed sales of 100,000 or more speaks to that argument, as far as we're concerned. It also speaks to the quality of the games. Even so, third parties have definitely already found in Wii a console that they can turn a profit. Wii had nine games - six of them from third parties - that sold at least 100,000 copies through December. That is, again, compared to two for PS3. Ubisoft in particular was a big winner. Its Red Steel and Rayman Raving Rabbids Wii titles sold approximately 220,000 and 185,000 respectively - nothing to scoff at for a brand new franchise and another that has slumbered for years. Sega's Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz managed 175,000 in sales. And Atlus had a sleeper on its hands with Trauma Center: Second Opinion, which sold through 115,000 copies. The title - a "Wii-make" of a DS game - required minimal development investment and, that considered, offered big returns.