Armchair Analysis: February 2011 Sales Projections

by: Peter Skeritt -
The shortest month of the year is behind us now as February is officially in the books. Now it's time to gaze into the crystal ball and make some predictions for what last month's sales figures will look like when they're released later this month. Keep in mind that NPD no longer releases official numbers (to maintain integrity of its paid subscribers), so these prediction columns will be centered more on what is selling and where it will rank, rather than how many units were sold. 

Let's look at the projected NPD hardware rankings for February:
  1. Xbox 360 (Microsoft)
  2. Nintendo DS (Nintendo)
  3. PlayStation 3 (Sony)
  4. Wii (Nintendo)
  5. PlayStation Portable (Sony)
Another strong month is expected for Microsoft. Despite momentum for Kinect losing a little bit of traction, demand for Xbox 360 hardware continued at a strong pace in February. The First Strike map pack add-on DLC for Call of Duty: Black Ops was exclusive to the 360 for the month of February, and the release of Bulletstorm-- complete with a beta invite for one of the most anticipated games of 2011 in Gears of War 3-- helped to keep interest high. Supply constraints were still a problem for some spots and retail channels, but this likely wasn't enough to derail a Microsoft victory for February. 

The impending release of Nintendo's 3DS platform is starting to affect sales of legacy DS SKUs, but Pokemon fever is growing again in anticipation of the March 6th release of the next pair of games in the franchise. The Nintendo DS is still the cheapest traditional gaming platform on the market, and when that is combined with a resurgence of interest in Pokemon, that should add up to another month of decent sales numbers in advance of expected Nintendo domination in March. Watch for a potential price drop on legacy DS SKUs in the next 6-8 weeks. 

Projecting the PlayStation 3 in the third slot-- ahead of the Wii-- is where the wheels may come off of these predictions. Having said that, two promotions that were basically equivalent to price drops were available to consumers in the month of February. GameStop gave away free copies of Little Big Planet 2 with new 160GB PlayStation 3 console purchases early in the month and then a 160GB bundle with Killzone 3 sold for $400 during the last week of the month. Nintendo did counter late in the month with a $20 drop of its own for Wii units at GameStop, but Sony looks like it could pull the mild upset here. 

Speaking of the Wii, there's not a lot that can be said that hasn't been said already. Sales have hit the wall, whether it's due to saturation, lack of games or HD, or some other reason. A temporary $20 price cut at GameStop late in February looks to have set the stage for a permanent drop either during or just before E3. One bright spot is that sales of Mario Sports Mix look to be brisk as supplies have been low in some retail channels. It's possible that this factor could briefly stimulate Wii sales, but it's really tough to call. It's a toss-up between Wii and PS3 for the third and fourth spots. 

The PSP is going through the motions, although it will be interesting to see how the recent price drop to $130 affects sales in March. Unfortunately, the PSP is a lame-duck platform with the NGP likely to hit retail late in Q4, but price cuts usually tend to produce at least some positive movement on the sales front in the month following the cut. The increase likely won't be enough to move the PSP past any of the other platforms on the list, but at least temporary improvement in unit sales should be expected. 

Turning to software, don't expect much movement on the sales charts for February. Early sales trends for Bulletstorm indicate that the game may not have quite enough momentum to topple Call of Duty: Black Ops from its top spot. In fact, there could be a closer battle between Bulletstorm and Killzone 3 than first thought. It's expected that Bulletstorm will sell enough to get past Killzone 3 on the charts, but it won't be a dominating performance. Expect more strong performances from the dance games on the chart; Just Dance 2 should continue to chart, and it's possible to see Zumba Fitness and Dance Central make repeat appearances, as well. 

Sales numbers usually begin to trickle out during the second Thursday of the month, so expect a full analysis of the raw data and sales trends in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, feel free to post your predictions in the Comments section below. Do you think that the PS3 has a chance to overtake the Wii, or is the Wii too strong? Are the Xbox predictions too bullish? Will the DS see one last gasp? Chime in and let us know!
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