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Forums - Sales Discussion - PlayStation+Ninty+Xbox shipment history since 1995, UPDATED May 2015.

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Puppyroach said:

So... the Wii was an anomaly because it sold so much and to new groups, the PS2 was an anomaly because it was on the market for so long and the 7th gen was an anomaly because it lasted for so many years. It sounds more like bad excuses for why we are experiencing a huge nosedive in terms of console sales rather than an analysis of what is actually causing the market to fall, while gaming as a whole continues to grow. Wouldn´t the PS1 also be an anomaly because the console sold over 100 million copies in Sony´s first try at the console market?

So, are you saying we should A) take the numbers at face value and ignore any sort of greater context, and B) assume those raw numbers tell us everything we need to know in and of themselves? Sorry, but that's not how it works. Without an understanding of why consoles sell what they do the numbers alone don't tell the whole story. I'm not trying to find excuses. I'm trying to give context. It's the doomsayers that look for any excuse they can to proclaim that something is doomed (most egregiously was the instances of some analysts ignoring the cyclical nature of the console market to claim that declining hardware sales after 2010 were indicative of the whole console market entering its dying days). We need to understand the effects of software, price cuts, long-term support for aging systems, unique regional variations, release timing, marketing, and so have not only sales of individual systems but on total annual hardware sales on in order for us to give proper context to the numbers.

The PS2 wasn't even an anomaly. The NES and SNES had strong legs as well (according to the NPD, roughly 20% of the SNES's lifetime sales were from 1996 to 1999). The thing is, whether or not an aging system has strong enough legs to keep it selling well into the following generation has an effect on total annual sales. But there's no reason to think that a system having strong legs and thus giving an additional bump to annual hardware sales in the next gen's prime years is not necessarily indicative of a strong market, nor is a system having weak legs indicative of a weak market. It just so happens that there always been at least one system each generation that still garnered enough software support late in life, which combined with a low price gave it strong legs (because not everybody is going to be a next-gen early adopter and might be looking for a cheaper alternative), and consequently a longer production run. It's possible that might not be the case this go-around, with support for the PS3 & 360 rapidly drying up and sales already dropping precipitously, thus negatively impacting overall hardware sales (it's worth pointing out that the seventh generation was also very protracted, and thus. But just because the seventh-gen systems are already starting to give up the ghost for their own reasons does not reflect in any way upon the overall health of the eighth-generation systems, nor does it necessarily reflect upon the the overall the health of the console market as a whole. How well a system continues to sell after its successor launches is based entirely on its own individual merits. Hence, why I unstacked annual generational sales in my graphs.

The Wii, however, was an anomaly. It was a non-standard console, underpowered compared to the competition but boasting a low price relative to the competition as well as a unique control scheme (it was the first time motion controls were really done well) and slick marketing. Now, I don't believe for one minute that "casuals" and non-gamers were the primary driver of Wii sales; I believe they were a small but noteworthy periphery demographic. But I do believe the Wii artificially inflated total sales by boosting the number of multi-console homes. While a detailed analysis is beyond the scope of this thread, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that between the boost in the rate of homes owning multiple consoles of the same generation, combined with the Wii's periphery demographic, made overall seventh-gen sales much larger than what anyone would have normally expected. Consequently, the failure of the Wii U combined with combined PS4 and XBO sales being very strong compared to their predecessors means that the generation-over-generation decline in the West is so far entirely on Nintendo's head. The fact that they weren't able to replicate the success of the Wii with the Wii U does not reflect upon the overall health of the console market as a whole. It simply means that a non-conventional system will not sell very well unless it has the right games, marketing, and gimmick.

Finally, in his OP Kowenicki posted total global sales without providing a regional breakdown. While the North American and European markets are still strong, the Japanese console market is undoubtedly in decline, as even when correcting for other factors the console market in Japan has seen negative growth. They peaked in the fifth generation at just over 31 million units between the PS1, N64, and Saturn. This decline has a overall negative net impact on global sales and reduces Japan's share of global console sales, thus giving the appearance that the console market is doing worse than it actually is. This is why I isolated the U.S. from the others. I would have provided European data as well if it were available, but unfortunately actual yearly sales data for Europe for all systems prior to the seventh generation is impossible to come by. It is worth pointing out, though, that the PS4 is so far selling about as well in Europe as the PS2 did. While even in the West the eighth generation is not going to match the seventh, it's still important to separate the various regions to give further context to global sales because there are significant regional variations in sales patterns.

So, to review, why the decline this generation in the West? The biggest cause would have to be the failure of the Wii U. Nintendo going from over 41 million to maybe only 8-9 million in the U.S. is obviously going to have a huge effect on generation-over-generation sales. But the performance of non-conventional consoles doesn't really say much on the overall health of the console market. People bought the Wii because it was something fresh and new, because it was cheap, and because Nintendo did a damn good job of marketing it. But because it was an unconventional console, it didn't act as a substitute for the 360 & PS3. People aren't buying the Wii U because Nintendo wasn't able to make that lightning strike twice. But conventional consoles are doing fine. So far, combined sales of the PS4 & XBO in the U.S. & Europe are comparing very well to those of their predecessors. If they fall short in lifetime sales, that'll have more to do with long-term sales after the eighth generation begins, but it doesn't change the fact that annual sales of conventional consoles are still going strong in the West.

Whether they realize it or not, doomsayers are basically taking the Wii U's low sales and using that to make broad statements about the overall health of the market.


In accordance to the VGC forum rules, §8.5, I hereby exercise my right to demand to be left alone regarding the subject of the effects of the pandemic on video game sales (i.e., "COVID bump").