2012 firmly cemented that the games market was in a steep decline with sharply plummeting sales across the board, and it looks like the trend is continuing in 2013. Though NPD’s January 2013 numbers may have seemed positive, with $834.7 million in total sales (largely thanks to increased accessory sales courtesy of Skylanders: Giants), it turns out that last month was chosen for the “Leap Month,” which NPD uses every few years to put its “monthly” tracking back in alignment with the established market seasons.
So, as it turns out, sales seem great – but only because last month included five weeks instead of the usual four. In fact, looking at a more normal four-week sales period, things appear to be down instead of up, with a 19% decline in sales. DMC: Devil May Cry was the only new game to break a software top 10 dominated by holiday best-sellers such as Black Ops II and Far Cry 3, though both DMC and the recently-released Ni no Kuni performed better than other January titles from recent years.
Though NPD no longer tracks hardware sales, some initial estimates for Wii U also popped up, and they don’t look pretty: a little over 55,000 systems were sold during the January period, lower than the worst months for virtually every other platform.
This implies a weekly sales rate of about 11,000 systems sold – a lower rate than any Nintendo system in recent memory ever saw at this point in its life. Gamasutra put together a nice chart graphic to illustrate things:
On the bright side, for both Sony and Microsoft platforms, the weakest weekly sales during their life-spans were near the beginning, so it’s not as though no system has ever had growing pains.
The three-month outlook for the system’s launch also ranks fairly low on the historical scale, though Wii U is still ahead of the PS3 and Xbox 360 and not too far behind PS2:
Nintendo’s going to need to correct the poor weekly rates if it’s going to keep ahead of its last-gen competitors, however.
On the bright side for Nintendo, none of the other systems it’s being compared to ever debuted in the middle of a slow economy. So, in that respect, it could be said that Wii U is doing fairly admirably – it’s still at its premium launch price, has only a few unique, top-quality titles, with only a vague roadmap for the future. That it’s performing as well as it is shows that it has the potential to be a strong brand once it’s backed by more favorable conditions and better marketing from Nintendo – and that includes a robust lineup for the second half of this year.