57658 posts since 05/03/07
on 08 September 2017
Ranking the eleven systems' prospects with the benefit of hindsight:
1. DS (#4 in the chart) - Slow start because the original hardware had a bulky look, but more importantly, the initial wave of software was trending towards a portable N64, but then new concepts and honoring of the 2D era of gaming took over. European launch didn't happen until week 16 (March 2005), so the holiday window was missed.
T2. PS4 (#1 in the chart) - Benefited from self-destruction of all competition, so a merely solid execution was enough to turn into a runaway success. Its peak level is rather disappointing after the strong start, but still makes it easy to sell more than 100m units lifetime. Japanese launch in week 15.
T2. Switch (#3 in the chart) - Held back by supply, but the future looks rosy with a monopoly in the handheld market and a foregone conclusion of winning in the Japanese market by a comfortable margin. Unlike Wii, the quality of third party support will be more in line with hardware sales which will lead to a more sustained sales curve. On that note, it also helps that Switch is Nintendo's only console, so first party support will also be more consistent.
4. Wii (#2 in the chart) - Off to a strong start, but despised by third parties and eventually Nintendo themselves. Despite its sales, Wii was treated like a losing system and consequently adopted a sales curve that mimics those of losing systems with an early peak and a sharp decline in the latter years.
T5. Xbox 360 (#9 in the chart) - A bungled launch with production issues that resulted in failure to capitalize on the launch hype, but ultimately treated like a winning system by third parties which led to an uptick in sales and a sustained sales curve.
T5. PS3 (#8 in the chart) - European launch in week 20. Very similar to the Xbox 360 in terms of third party support and the resulting sales curve. Blu-ray was the main reason for the PS3's disastrous start, but it was also the main reason why Sony was willing to take all the losses on hardware sales and keep the console going. Unlike Vita, which was quickly abandoned.
7. PSP (#10 in the chart) - American launch in week 16, no European launch until much later. This is the one system that seriously suffers in this comparison because it has no worldwide sales. The addition of Europe would have put it at #7 in the chart which would make it exactly the consistent performer that it has been over its lifetime.
8. 3DS (#6 in the chart) - No holiday launch. Nintendo replicated on their handheld what previously sank their home console business: They went all in on 3D and ignored their roots. The 3DS's life played out accordingly. It needed a big price cut early, Nintendo scrambled to get non-3D software out, Nintendo even put out hardware revisions that defied the system's name. Greatly benefited from Sony's utter incompetence in the handheld market.
9. Xbox One (#5 in the chart) - Could satisfy demand on launch. Delayed launches in tier 2 and 3 countries were insignificant in terms of sales. Microsoft handed victory to Sony early and their business motivations to make consoles evaporated with all the things that have changed in the past decade. The Xbox One is still there, but the willingness to fight isn't anymore.
10. Vita (#11 in the chart) - American and European launches in week 11 and 12. Vita was a failure from the get-go, but wasn't treated as such by Japanese third parties which bolstered its overall hardware sales. Still, this one positive aspect wasn't enough for Sony to continue in the handheld market.
11. Wii U (#7 in the chart) - Nintendo's disdain for the Wii led them to recreate the GameCube, dropping motion controls in favor of built-in GC-GBA connectivity in the system's controller. To this day, hardcore gamers are confused by the Wii name in Wii U, believing that it is a Wii successor. Those same people probably believe that Super Mario World 2 is the sequel to Super Mario World. Anyway, the GC was a failure, so the Wii U was bound to fail as well.