In Japan, the illusion of Nintendomination

Noire et Blanc

When I was in high school, my physics teacher was always saying that to have a precise measurement, you had to take as many points as you can. It’s called being scientific. But when French websites publish Japanese games sales on Wednesday afternoon, they publish a top 10 whereas the source has a top 20 or a top 30. A top 10 doesn’t represent a whole market and no conclusions can be drawn on so little data. So today, we’re gonna be serious and take the top 100 of Japanese games sales for 2014, recently published by Famitsu. By the way, note that the glorious GOTY Bayonetta 2 doesn’t chart and thus sold 6 times less than the first one. I remind you that Sega has yet to unveil its line-up for 2015.

I said top 100, but it’s gonna be a top 80. Why? Because I’m thinking in ecosystems : the Sony ecosystem versus the Nintendo ecosystem. The thing is that an increasing number of games are released on several Sony platforms at once : it’s an integreted ecosystem and you have to compile the data to see the economic truth. On the contrary, only one title (Smash Bros) is available on both WiiU and 3DS : it’s a messy ecosystem that takes advantage of the division of SKUs. So, when adding PSVita, PS3 and PS4 versions and digital when we must, we come to that.

That sure changes nothing in the top of the ranking. Nintendo heavily dominates and has every single high-seller : the top 40 WiiU/3DS games account for 22 million units sold, crushing the 8 million titles sold on the Sony ecosystem. Under, the ranking sees some modifications like Hatsune Miku Project Diva F 2nd surging from the 44th rank to the 24th, GTAV gaining 40 ranks with its 3 versions. We observe that the 80 lines are separeted almost fifty-fifty between the two manufacturers, which means that outside of the big Nintendo licenses, Yôkai Watch and Monster Hunter, the match is not set.

So now let’s erase everything that is first party. The number of sales is still quite superior on 3DS (WiiU is gone since no 3rd party has found any success on it). Last Spring, I had done a little standard deviation calculation to analyse the performance of 3rd parties in Japan, now I can do it on complete data. Standard deviation represents the dispersion of the data series compared to the average : in 2014, it’s eleven times higher on 3DS, which proves a high heterogeneity in costumer behaviour. ¾ of those sales actually come from Yôkai Watch and Monster Hunter : without those two IPs and even if you delete the two highest selling Playstation games, the 3rd party software sales on the Sony ecosystem doubles the ones of 3DS. So for any third party publisher except Level-5 and Capcom, the economic expected value is quite inferior on 3DS, all the more true than Playstation games have a higher digital ratio and are priced up to 50% more. Also, don’t forget that the install base of Sony system is still less than Nintendo systems : 15 millions PSVita + PS3 + PS4 vs 20 millions of WiiU/3DS. The attach rate being higher on Playstation, it’s the publishers’ best interest to support PS4 and PSVita in order to take advantage of the growth leverage they can create.

All this might well lead to more drought on Nintendo consoles, which has already started : today, we count 40 third party games in development for PS4, 53 for PSVita, only 17 on 3DS and WiiU just has the F2P Project Treasure from Namco. Kotaku had indeed noticed this dominance of the Vita in the future line-ups. Besides, Capcom and Level-5 are not supporting Nintendo that much despite their immense successes on 3DS : the former deprived the WiiU of Resident evil, Devil May Cry and Street Fighter, and Level-5 is known to prepare a major game for PS4. The issue for 3DS now is that it’s liable to end up like the Wii, that is to say a system with confortable rent (Yôkai Watch, Monster Hunter and traditional Nintendo licenses) but that is growing irrelevant for most gamers given that both quantity and variety are shrinking fast, while the Sony ecosystem gets richer and richer.

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