Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Friday, October 29, 2010

Earnings Roundup For The Big Three

Sometimes it can be hard to sort out what's going on at the Big Three console manufacturers when their PR machines are churning out clouds of smoke. Fortunately, every once in a while we get financial reports that slip a few facts in there. Let's look at what's being reported. (I'm only going to cover revenue for the games divisions of Sony and Microsoft, but for both of those companies it's usually true that if the games division is doing well, the whole company is doing well.)

Microsoft, as you might have expected, had a great quarter with the release of Halo: Reach. The Xbox 360 business went up 33% over the same quarter in 2009. They sold 2.8 million Xbox 360's, about 38% higher than last year. Total revenues for the game section were $1.2 billion, with Halo: Reach accounting for over $350 million of that all by its lonesome. The division made $382 million in profit for the JAS quarter, which was a 46% increase from last year. Looks like a AAA sequel can still rake in the bucks, and doing an Xbox 360 themed around the release certainly didn't hurt. Microsoft expects to do well for Christmas, too with the Kinect poised to enter the market. They expect a 30% boost over last year's sales for the entire Entertainment and Devices division, though some of that is due to Windows Phone 7.

Looks good for Microsoft, but how's Sony doing? It's a mixed report for them. The PlayStation section had overall sales drop by almost 13% over last year, down to $2.12 billion. The PS3, though, had its number of units sold increase 9% over last year due to the PS3 Slim and the Move introduction, with total units sold hitting 3.5 million. Software sales rose from 23.9 million units to 35.3 million units. Why did sales overall drop? It's all thanks to the PSP, which saw sales drop by 50% year-over-year (I believe the technical term you see in the financial press is "plummet"). The PSP sold only 1.5 million units in the quarter, matching the 10-year-old PlayStation 2. PSP software saw a 2 million unit drop to 13 million, and PS2 software was almost halved with a drop to 5.6 million units, versus 11.4 million last year. Sony expects the PlayStation division to sell 15 million PlayStation 3s, 8 million PSPs, and 6 million PS2s for the year. Not bad, but not as good as Microsoft.

Looks like Nintendo gets to be the bearer of purely bad news. They lost almost $25 million over the last six months (compare that to the same period last year, when they had a profit of over $75 million; that's a $100 million dollar swing). Nintendo saw DS sales drop 43% over that period, down to 6.69 million units (about 1.1 million per month on the average). Wii sales dropped over 14%, down to 4.97 million units for that six-month period, with Wii software sales dropping a similar amount. DS software sales only dropped 23%, which I guess is cause for celebration compared to all the other numbers.

Some analysts think Nintendo can still pull out a good Christmas, but others (like this one) disagree, and don't see any happy surprises under the tree for Nintendo. Put me in the "Nintendo's gonna get worse before it gets better" camp. Though I'm not sure how much better they're going to get. I'm sure the 3DS will have a good launch, but that still doesn't solve the Wii problem, which probably wouldn't get new hardware until next fall at the earliest. The 3DS may have a rough time maintaining good sales with an impending PSP2 launch, and the continuing successes of the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and Android devices.

It gives you some perspective when you look at the sales numbers from the Big Three and compare them to iPhone numbers (currently selling close to 5 million per month) or Android numbers (6 million per month) or even iPad numbers (currently at 1.3 million per month and rising). When iPads are outselling DS's, and the iPad is at least 5 times the price on average, you know Nintendo has a long-term problem. At least Nintendo is finally acknowledging that Apple is a threat. Of course, that's not the same as actually doing something about it, like opening up the DS to all kinds of software development with little or no bureaucracy.

We'll see where the industry sits once the glow of Kinect and Move introductions has worn off. I expect 2011 to be another lackluster year for software sales on traditional consoles.

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