NPD: Xbox 360 Soars Past PS3 in September Sales

Microsoft slashed the price of all three of its Xbox 360 models last month, and those substantial cuts paid dividends, according to September NPD sales. The Xbox 360 enjoyed "in the ball park" projected sales given the price drop, according to Microsoft's Xbox 360 Group PR Manager David Dennis, who spoke with Game On as NPD's numbers were going out. "September is typically a slow month, so even taking the price cut into consideration, we did very well."

While the Xbox 360 "is now the most affordable next generation console on the market," according to Microsoft, at "$50 less than the Wii and half the price of the PlayStation 3," Nintendo still managed to clean Microsoft and Sony's clock with a supply-driven 34 percent sales surge, up from 453k units in August to 687k units in September.

September also marked "the first true monthly decline the industry has experienced since March of 2006," according to NPD analyst Anita Frazier, who added that this month's 7 percent decline is against September 2007, which was itself up 75 percent from September 2006. NPD analyst David Riley further notes that Frazier is referring to NPD's January 2008 data-of-record, but since January 2008 was a four-week month compared to January 2007 (five weeks) January 2008 actually had higher weekly sales, and was "therefore not a true decline for [September 2008]."

Overall? I'm with NPD when they write "the health of the video games industry remains quite strong despite the rocky economic conditions." Based on typical fall and holiday sales trends, NPD predicts we're still on track to hit record $22 billion revenue, and that's not counting PC games.

September Hardware

687k - Wii

537k - Nintendo DS

347k - Xbox 360

238k - PSP

232k - PlayStation 3

174k - PlayStation 2

- Hardware unit sales were flat versus last year, according to NPD's Frazier, who cites lower prices as the culprit.

- Last year, Halo 3 was released near the end of September, and that game substantially impacted hardware and software sales, making this September's numbers that much more impressive (October will be the real indicator, of course, since that's where Halo 3 had a chance to really stretch its legs).

- Nearly all system sales were higher in September (only the PSP dipped, down from 253k to 238k). The Xbox 360's price cut raised its unit sales profile by 78 percent overall, putting a 115k unit gap between the 360 and PS3.

- Sony continues to cite year-over-year sales to bolster its profile (recall the PS3 sold very poorly last year). PS3 sales increased 94% over last September, according to Sony, though the PS3's 25% sales uptick over August 2008 is certainly notable.

- The PS2 finished strongly in last place, helping raise Sony's brand profile to 644k units (PSP, PS2, PS3).

- Do we even need to comment on Nintendo? Its total hardware profile for September = 1.2 million units.

September Software

610k - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (360)

518k - Wii Fit (Wii)

363k - Rock Band 2 (360)

353k - Mario Kart (Wii)

325k - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (PS3)

297k - Mercenaries 2: World in Flames (360)

243k - Wii Play (Wii)

224k - Madden NFL 09 (360)

223k - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Wii)

158k - Madden NFL 09 (PS2)

- Microsoft continues to wallop both Sony and Nintendo in software sales, with an attach rate of 8.1, according to Microsoft (citing NPD data). Note that while both the 360 and Wii had four titles chart with comparable unit totals, two of the 360's four titles debuted in September and two in August, versus Wii Fit (May 2008), Mario Kart (April 2008), and Wii Play (August 2007). Other than September's Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Nintendo's third party presence is comparably nonexistent.

- "A full 35 percent of last year's software sales came from one title: Halo 3," said NPD's Frazier. "This year, the wealth is spread a bit more broadly as seven titles achieved sales of 250K units or more while last year only three hit that mark."

- Frazier notes the "wide array of content" that sold well across the month, from Star Wars (third-person action) to Wii Fit (aerobics game) to LEGO Batman (toy-based game targeted at younger players). "Rock Band 2 achieved sales of over 360K units on just one platform and this title should continue to make its mark on the industry when the PS3, Wii and PS2 versions are released later this year," added Frazier.

- Though PC game sales weren't included in these numbers, Fraizer singled out two for mention: Spore, with sales of 406k units, and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, with 274K, "which would put them both in the top 10 list of combined console, portable and PC games sales for the month."

- Is it telling that the PS2 version of Madden NFL 09 beat the PS3 version, which failed to chart in the top 10 altogether? Maybe. It says there's still a substantial swathe of potential PS3 owners perfectly happy to stick with their PS2s when it comes to major franchises like Madden.

Next month: The really heavy lifters are about to hit in the next couple days (Fable 2 - 360, Little Big Planet - PS3) and weeks (Fallout 3 - multi, Gears of War 2 - 360). Given the stable of goodies about to drop (see our Coolest 15 Games of Fall 2008 feature), October and November should be incredibly interesting to watch.

So economics, schmekonomics...it's still an incredible time to be a gamer.

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