MARCH 12, 2015 • The release of the February NPD numbers had each of the three big video game hardware makers crowing about results. Microsoft Corp. noted February Xbox One sales were up 84% over January. Meanwhile, Sony Computer Ent. America claimed the PlayStation 4 was number one in both hardware and software sales for the month. Presumably the SCEA statement was not including portable systems as Nintendo of America’s 3DS handheld family topped U.S. hardware sales in February thanks to the launch of the new 3DS XL system on February 13. The launch helped drive not only 3DS sales of hardware, but also its premier launch titles, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. The latest in the Zelda franchise sold through 500,000 retail and digital units while Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate moved more than 340,000 combined units. Total 3DS hardware unit sales for February in U.S. were 395,000 units, and Nintendo says the majority sold were new 3DS XLs. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D was the top-selling title for the month, and Capcom USA, Inc. reports that Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is its fastest-selling 3DS title. Unfortunately, the Wii U continues to struggle. While carefully avoiding disclosing hardware sales for the Wii U, Nintendo did say U.S. consumers have purchased 20% more units of the console during January and February than in the same months in 2014. Unfortunately sales in those months were pathetic so a 20% increase is not much to brag about.
Impact: The game market has five major active dedicated game systems, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 which are on their way down, and the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 which are on their way up. Now into that mix we need to add the 3DS, which four years after launch could see a resurgence with the 3DS XL. This is actually the second version of the 3DS XL. The first version was quietly introduced to the market in August 2012. That system suffered from a major lack of promotion on Nintendo’s part. In contrast the new 3DS XL benefited from an actual marketing push and solid launch titles to take some by surprise. The Monster Hunter franchise has been a huge success for Capcom in Japan where it is seen as a hardware driver. It is not well known in the U.S. but that could change. DFC Intelligence is releasing its new forecasts next month and the one platform that is likely to see the biggest change is the 3DS. However, this is not likely to be a major change that will bring Nintendo back to its portable heyday, but instead a slight adjustment. Overall the game console business remains in transition with the new Sony and Microsoft systems replacing sales of the older systems, while in the portable segment, Nintendo has slowed what was looking to be a steeper decline.