Now that Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony have all released their financial results for the quarter to March 31st 2011 we can take an updated look at the worldwide console sales situation. If you have read our reports of those financial results you will have some idea of how the console wars are going but some of this should still be of interest.
It has taken longer than expected to pull all the numbers together, mainly due to the contents of the final graph, so there is less time to put some words together and the graphs themselves will have to do most of the talking with a minimum of commentary.
First though, let’s get some numbers out of the way. This table shows the millions of unit sales for the current consoles from The Big Three™ during each of the last four quarters and forms the basis for the first two graphs.
Now while that table is telling us a great deal the relationships between the numbers are easier to understand when shown in a graph. Here then is the data from just the ‘Jan-Mar’ column which is the last quarter for which we have data.
The 3DS had a relatively quiet launch due to a number of factors but considering it was only available for the last month of the quarter in Japan and less than a week in other markets but it was still easily the best selling console of the quarter.
Around 900,000 units behind the 3DS we find the 360. Many might have expected the PS3 to take second but instead it lags the 360 by 600,000 sales. Kinect has undoubtedly provided a big boost to the 360’s sales it is simply a question of whether Microsoft can show enough desirable Kinect games to continue the momentum. We should have something of an answer to that in around a week.
Given that the PSP scores so many weekly sales wins in Japan you might be surprised to see it behind the DS. It becomes clearer when you remember that these figures here are global sales. During the year to March 31st Japanese DS sales only accounted for 13% of the total. Sales in The Americas made up the largest proportion, 48%, with the rest of the world buying the remaining 39%. Given that the PSP seems now only to be selling well in Japan that explains why those millions of PSPs being used to play Monster Hunter could not take fourth spot away from the DS.
There is not much to be said about the Wii and PS2 propping up the table. The Wii’s sales have been sliding for some time and it is being replaced next year. While the PS2 just refuses to give up like a zombie with both legs shot off dragging itself along the ground to bite you on the ankle.
This next graph takes the whole of that first table and turns it into a sweet-tasting, multi-coloured piece of graphical confectionery.
What a difference the extra nine months make. The DS shows what a dominant handheld it has been for most of its life and it is just that final quarter where its sales have fallen off a cliff like the grip on a Pirelli Formula 1 tyre.
The Wii’s extraordinary sales during the holiday period make it the best selling home console, 800,000 ahead of the PS3, which in turn is 1 million ahead of the 360.
That graph gives a clearer indication of just how much Sony need the NGP, or whatever it will end up being called, to revive their handheld fortunes with the 3DS aiming to make it the worst selling handheld. That job will become much easier for it in a few weeks with, arguably, the release of first of the 3DS’ big titles, the Ocarina Of Time remake.
Let’s now zoom out again to take an even broader look at the console sales and consider them over the entire life of each console. Sometimes when we have done this in the past we have wondered what it would look like if the sales of the current consoles were compared to those we grew up with. Well wonder no more…
The numbers for the fondly remembered consoles from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony are relatively easy to get from the three companies. As we desired to include the Sega consoles though that complicated things as to the best of our knowledge Sega never published any unit sales figures for them.
To check we have just been through many years of financial and annual reports from Sega both before and after it merged with Sammy to no avail. So the sales figures for the Sega consoles are the most seemingly reliable or agreed upon that we have been able to find from independent sources.
The Sega story told on the graph is a sad one to the many of us that grew up with their consoles. With the aid of some missteps from Sega itself Sony effectively stole their place in the market as the slightly more grown up/less family-friendly home console and took advantage of changing lifestyles and fashions to grow it to a size Sega could only ever have dreamed of.
This generation certainly has not played out how we expected.
Sony have made their own missteps with the PS3 which is likely to struggle to reach the sales of the original PlayStation, let alone the PS2. Microsoft’s rush to market with the Xbox 360, despite the reliability problems that hurried development seems to have caused initially, has broken Sony’s home console dominance.
It has looked like the PS3 was getting ready to overtake the 360 in sales as it hit its stride, however over the last two quarters the Kinect-powered reinvigoration of the 360’s sales has see it first halt and then reverse that trend.
Nintendo’s Wii has beaten them both though by creating an growing a market that most did not think existed before its launch, a market that Sony and Microsoft both now covet, and in doing so has broken out of the mid-table position occupied by its Nintendo home console stablemates.
As this console generation dawned the expectations were that the PlayStation 3 would continue its predecessor’s dominance, the Xbox 360 would like the first Xbox probably become just and also-ran and that nobody would buy the under-powered Wii.
Given how wrong the majority of opinions were as we find ourselves on the cusp of the next generation, eagerly awaiting our first look at Nintendo’s next home console in just a matter of days, does anyone dare to make a prediction about what such a graph might look like in another five or six years?
Note: The sales figures for the Sega Nomad that are not visible on the chart are 1 million. It is probably also the only one that does not warrant the ‘fondly remembered’ label.