NPD Instant Analysis: Things You Should Note

Do not risk discussing video game sales figures without having a few talking points. As always, Kotaku has some instant sales analysis, to help you explain why Mario beat Zelda, why the 360 is in third place and more.

But! Before you read this analysis, be sure to brush up on the just-reported December video game sales figures. Courtesy of the NPD group, we've got December gaming hardware sales and December gaming software sales.

Fact: The PS3 was the number two home console, but only had one top-10 game, Modern Warfare 2 at 1.12 million copies sold on Sony's console in December. That makes you wonder if that's the main game that the 1.36 million new December PS3 owners bought. These new owners couldn't have been buying Uncharted 2 too, right?

Possible Analysis
1) These new PS3 owners did indeed buy Uncharted 2, but, you know, maybe not because the game sold over 500,000 in October in the U.S.... but Sony now says that the game sold 950,000 through the end of the year. That doesn't leave room for December U2 sales to be all that grand.
2) Who needs games? These new PS3 owners bought their PS3 as a Blu-Ray player.
3) These new PS3 owners bought the system with bundles of stuff not showing up in these charts.
4) These new PS3 owners bought lots of different games for their console, none in huge numbers, failing to see a PS3 killer-app out there, a la Halo for the Xbox or GoldenEye for the Nintendo 64, or Wii Fit for the Wii.

Fact: There are six Nintendo-platform (and Nintendo-published) games in the top 10.

Possible Analysis
1) Nintendo shoppers shop on Christmas and aren't going to rush out and buy games in huge numbers that were released in September. (Well, uh, except for Mario & Luigi.) But see, they don't buy those games in September. They shop in December. Mostly. For most of their games.
2) The Nintendo seal, it counts for lots. Nintendo shoppers shop on Christmas and aren't going to buy games in huge numbers that are not published by Nintendo.
3) Fancy boxes required. Nintendo shoppers are wooed by unusually configured boxes, be they the red ones of New Super Mario Bros Wii or the plus-sized ones of the peripheral-packing Mario Kart, Wii Sports Resort, Wii Fit and so on... so add something special to your game boxes, third parties (if Nintendo lets you).

Fact: The Xbox 360 slips to third place.

Possible Analysis
1) The Xbox 360 is doomed, a sinking ship, a fading memory, a lime green sunset.
2) The Xbox 360 no longer easily compares favorably to the PS3 in terms of price and features, so it needs another price drop or more features (Free Wi-Fi adapter, perhaps?)
3) The Xbox 360 is suffering from a lack of strong first-party support that makes it a must-buy over its competition, losing whatever brand association it had earlier in the fall with the multi-platform Modern Warfare 2 and not establishing 2009 first-party projects Halo 3: ODST and Forza 3 as new-owner-generating must-owns.

Fact: In December, Mario games outsold Zelda games. Over the course of the month, a September-released Mario, Bowser's Inside Story, and a November one, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, outsold a December Zelda, Spirit Tracks.

Possible Analysis
1) Face it, Link fans, Zelda never had the cross-over appeal of Mario and the adventures of Link are headed toward being (relatively speaking) niche products, not Wii Fit-caliber juggernauts that dads and grandmas love.
2) Nothing to see here. The Zelda game wasn't out for all of December, so this isn't a fair comparison.
3) More Zelda milking is required. Mario benefits from having so many games based on him, while Zelda suffers from the comparative scarcity. Meaning the world needs two Zeldas a year, at least, to know that Zelda Is Important.

Fact: Sequels take nine of the top 10 software spots, leaving just Wii Play as the only charting original game.

Possible Analysis
1) Well, yeah, people like sequels, and that is bad, because The Saboteur was well worth experiencing.
2) Well, yeah, gaming sequels are usually better than their predecessors, so consumers buying them shopped wisely.
3) Wii Play is the original intellectual property sensation of this generation, a game so brilliant it doesn't need a sequel.
4) Wii Play is actually a sequel too because it enables people to obtain a sequel to their Wii Remote, also known as their second Wii Remote, which comes bundled with Wii Play.

Notable new releases that failed to make the overall software top 10 (With no console or handheld version selling more than 656,700 units in the U.S. by January 2): James Cameron's Avatar (Dec. 1), The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (Dec. 7), The Saboteur (Dec. 8), Guitar Hero: Van Halen (Dec. 21), Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers (Dec. 26)