Wii U or Xbox One: More Fun With Numbers
Yesterday I got into some spirited debate over my post Which Console is Doing Better: Wii U or Xbox One? Many commenters took umbrage at my view that XBO has the advantage moving into the rest of 2014. Several insisted on making a big deal out of sales in the last quarter. While I had said in the last article that these numbers did make Wii U look stronger, did the commenters have a point? Is there more there?
So this time, I thought I’d look more closely at the April – June 2014 sales quarter. And I have spreadsheets.
Broken down by month, April begins with Wii U in a weak position. Numbers are down and declining; they’re moving about 30,000 units a week, and their only real game sales bright spot is the LEGO Movie game. In May, the downward trend slows down; they remain at about the 30,000 units a week mark, but essentially stop declining across the month of May.
In the week preceding the launch of Mario Kart 8 sales begin to rise; then the week MK8 released Wii U had its best week ever outside of the holiday season. Wii U experienced a 333% sales spike from the week prior. Now can you see why everything in June (and even into July) needs to be viewed in the context of the MK8 launch? Their numbers are declining again, but from such a high that the MK8 bounce still haven’t disappeared completely.
Wii U sales definitely bloomed this quarter, to the tune of almost 20% overall. But the last sixty days of the sales quarter are all being impacted by that bounce, and thus the numbers for the whole quarter. Nearly half of quarterly sales came in the last three weeks after MK8 launched. It’s impossible to say at this point that these are Nintendo’s new normal. We need at least a full quarter to see where this goes. MK8 could run out of steam by the end of the summer …. or it may be like the X360 and PS3 versions of Minecraft, still ranking top ten in sales even though they’re last gen.
Conversely, this was arguably Xbox One’s weakest quarter of the year in terms of new releases. They had only one exclusive new release, and that was Kinect Sports Rivals — a game that released the very same quarter that Microsoft released the Kinect-less XBO that proved so popular. Oops! Not surprisingly, the game flopped and sales were largely unchanged the weeks around its release. Also, the console market in general lacked for big cross-platform releases in that quarter, meaning there was nothing to spur on-the-fence potential XBO buyers into purchasing a console immediately.
XBO’s June price drop spike did spur some potential buyers into purchasing, but it was far more moderate than WiiU’s MK8 spike, as was expected. The result is a much flatter sales curve. Numbers dip before the release, then bounce, then return to pre-price drop typical sales numbers. XBO’s sales numbers have risen about 2% over the quarter overall.
If you remove the three biggest “bounce” weeks from each set of data, the consoles come in surprisingly close: WiiU dropped by 6% in the quarter and XBO dropped by 7%, when the spikes are treated as outliers. If you look at all post-bump sales — essentially, add in the month of July — then WiiU looks better; they essentially break even, averaging 0% change in sales over July while XBO fell by 5% in the same period.
The Mario Kart 8 spike was no doubt important for WiiU. Nintendo is finally leveraging their most popular franchise. It may just turn things around for them; but it’s also possible that they’ll end up in the same place Wii did, where company franchises make big impacts and third-party games make tiny ripples … and that would mean a volatile and less reliable sales curve.
XBO, meanwhile, is coasting. They needed to do what they did to Kinect; it seems to have shored up their sales numbers moving forward, which is what it was meant to do. Now they need to score that one big game (by which we mean Halo 5, of course). Coasting will only get them so far. Whether games like Project Spark and Sunset Overdrive can do that before Christmas remains to be seen; in the meantime, the console will surely benefit some from the big cross-platform releases that will hit XBO but not Wii U. Their sales potential is far less volatile.
So, yes, the summer has belonged to Wii U. But Nintendo still has a lot of work to do before we can say that Wii U is on the rebound (like announce a release date for Super Smash Bros. — seriously). Meanwhile, Microsoft has to stop banking on their brand-loyal user base and get people excited about their console again.
One thing is for sure: this holiday season should be an interesting one.