Friday, March 9, 2012

February 2012 NPD: A Tale of Two Portables

Lots of you are probably wondering who "won" the portable showdown last month. Early estimates of 300,000 units for Vita seemed likely to nudge it past the 3DS, which would have made sense given that Vita is the newer platform and that early adopters would push it to a respectable launch number.

That didn't happen, however.

While I can't confirm the raw number for Vita sales in February, I can confirm that the 225,000 unit sales data on NeoGAF is acceptably close to the real number. That means that, yes, 3DS outperformed the Vita during the reporting period by roughly 35,000 units.

Before people start launching into "bomb" comparisons and claims of doom for the Vita, I think that it's important to keep some perspective.

Market conditions that the Vita is facing are quite challenging. Aside from the obvious challenge from the 3DS selling for $80 less, Vita also faces increasing competition from tablets and smartphones. People can feel free to claim all they want that mobile games aren't real games, aren't as deep, don't have buttons, or whatever other reasons... but iOS/Android is the growth market right now. I also consider the rapid rises in fuel costs in February to be a factor as disposable income levels were likely affected by putting more money into the gas tank instead of retail.

225,000 units in 11 days isn't bad. It's not great, and comes nowhere close to the record that Nintendo set with the 3DS last March, but it's not a disaster. If the number had come in under 200,000 units, then I'd be a bit more bearish. That didn't happen, though. I think that it ranges on the low end of expectations and that we need to wait and see how the base builds over the next few months. If the 225,000 number drops by more than 50% (to under 113,000) this month, then I think there might be some concern... although the release of the new iPad could hinder sales for both Vita and 3DS this month. We will see.

As for the 3DS, February was a nice bounce from what was a tough January (171,000 units last month). An limited price cut to $160 at GameStop prior to the Vita launch might have helped to boost numbers, and it's being reported that several 3DS games charted outside of the Top 10 but in the Top 25 games in February. This month will be the first month that we have YOY data for 3DS, and lower YOY numbers should be expected.

3DS may have won this first battle, but the war of the handhelds is just beginning and should be interesting to watch unfold over the coming months.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Peter. Love your commentary.
    It's true that people shouldn't cry doom & gloom for Vita just yet. Japan looks bad right now but that can be changed even if it will be a challenge.

    Unlike the 3DS, Vita at least had some decent software available at launch. In my opinion, Vita's success depends on being able to siphon 3DS's 3rd party support. Nintendo's hold on the 3rd party has been weak ever since Sony came on the scene with the original PlayStation in the mid-90s. Historical, political, & strategical reasons keep the 3rd party devs from giving their all to Nintendo unless they have no choice. So if Vita can make inroads on that reality then the better they'll do against Nintendo's 3DS.

    From there it will be up to both 3DS & Vita to keep retail physical handheld gaming viable as Apple's iPods & iPads try to force gaming back to the PC in Apple's image. Both of them have a job on their hands.

    Question is should this 'keep retail' force be divided between Nintendo & Sony? Will that ultimately weaken them against Apple or can that give more choices so that Apple doesn't become the 2nd choice by default? Gonna be an interesting generation coming up.
    John Lucas