Special: Who really won 2007?
Software Scores & Exclusivity
Software is the lifeblood of the console maker. Sony and Microsoft have been selling their consoles at a loss for years in hopes of making up the difference off of licensing fees from third party companies. On the flip side, Nintendo has stated that their little machine has been profitable since launch due the the low cost of the machine. Regardless of whether the company is losing tons on their machine like Sony, or making chump change on the sale, as in Nintendo's case, the bulk of profits will always come off the software. This brings about two different, but equally important topics. First off is the notion that the machine with the highest rated software will have an advantage. Lucky for gamers in this day in age there is an incredible amount of free resources to go to for reviews of the latest titles. Gone are the days of talking to people you barely knew at the local game store for their input thanks to the new invention of the Internet. Assuming the crazy little arrangement of tubes sticks around for the foreseeable future, gamers will be able to check out meta scores via sites like Metacritic
, Rotten Tomatoes
and Game Rankings
. Although meta-review sites shouldn't replace the act of getting familiar with certain reviewers (I am personally attached to this guy
) as they can offer another facility for the learned gamer to judge a prospective purchases credibility by.
With that in mind this analyst decided to take advantage of such resources for ammo in the console war. First and foremost the Top 50 titles are selected from a pool of only PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox 360, downloadable games included. This means that although there were higher ranked games released for PSP, DS and PC, they were not counted. Therefore all 50 of the titles included in this breakdown are for the three platforms in the current generation's console war. As you can see below, Nintendo's little media darling, the Wii, fairs pretty badly when shown in this light. The little machine that leads the global hardware sales and continues to be hard to find only has 16% of the titles in the top 50. The PlayStation 3, which many have bashed since it's release and is currently in last for hardware sales, and by a good margin, managed a respectable 38% software penetration of the top 50. Xbox 360 took the cake in this category with nearly half of the top 50's titles at 23 of 50 including six titles in the top 10 to PlayStation 3's three and Wii's singular appearance. Of note is that the Wii did have the highest rated title of the year in Super Mario Galaxy
Top 50 software per console. Wii doesn't look so hot.
But the kicker is that second topic that was so eloquently unmentioned above. When most buyers look into a new console they want to see what kind of exclusives the machine has to offer. In recent years exclusivity has become less and less of a worry, causing many publishers to release ports to everything under the sun be it console, handheld, PC or mobile. To be considered an exclusive here, is to be part of an elite club. Of this year's top 50 rated titles, only 21 are considered exclusive in our eyes. Our eyes are simple, the title in question only needs to be console exclusive, a PC port does not matter but the title in question must not be available to any other console, this generation or the previous one. We also feel that the 'windowed exclusivity' that has become popular lately holds no water when speaking in console war terms, therefore a title such as The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles
which was released months apart for PS3 and Xbox 360 cancel each other out.
When taking exclusives into account we can see that the playing field becomes a lot more level. It's incredibly difficult to to call who would win this battle as even the placement of the exclusives in the Top 50 are spread pretty evenly between each platform. The most telling thing to gain from such a view is the realization that Wii's exclusives are generally the platforms high performing releases. At the same time the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 cannibalized each others software market just as Nintendo predicted back when they decided to leave the arms race and create the Wii. But in the end, despite the closeness of the numbers, Microsoft's Xbox 360 pulls away with the highest count again, barely.
Until you break down titles by exclusives, then the playing field becomes more even, but Xbox 360 still claims this round either way.
For a more in-depth look at each console's exclusives, check out the November 2007 Update to the Exclusive Arms Race
NPD Spin Breakdown
Naturally with the release of the NPD numbers for the entire year comes the quick spin. Microsoft
, and Nintendo
have all issued their usual spinmeister upon the data, claiming that each company is the ruler of the world, or will be shortly. For their part Microsoft details how video game consumers spent more money on their goods than any of their competitors. So much so that Microsoft claims to have captured 45% of all the industry's money with just the Xbox 360 alone. Nintendo on the other hand touts that their machines (the Wii and DS) were home to half of the top 30 best selling games of 2007, listing two Wii titles we didn't see on the top 10 list, Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Games
and Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
, as two of those fifteen video games. The big N closed their argument by confirming that the market grew 43% from 2006 to 2007 and added in that Nintendo alone was responsible for 60% of that growth. Sony's PR department had a more difficult time spinning the year numbers in their favor though. As shown above, Sony did not manage to win a single category, although the last generation champion did come in a close second for software scores. Instead of playing with the 2007 numbers the firm decided to spin the December 2007 numbers, stating that the PS3 had it's best month since it's launch and that Sony's video game products pushed more than $714 million worth of merchandise, eclipsing Nintendo and Microsoft. So according to their press releases, everybody did win, somehow.
All three companies spun the numbers pretty well but it is all just spin really. While Sony touts that they pushed more PlayStation merchandise in December than their competitor's they did include all PlayStation merchandise in that fold, including the PS2 and PSP, and as far as we know, they only lead for that one month, even if it is a lucrative one. Microsoft probably didn't take into account that Nintendo's products cost far less than their Xbox 360 goodies. Nintendo's system is $30 cheaper than the cheapest 360 package, the Xbox 360 Arcade bundle, and $200 less expensive than the Xbox 360 Elite package. Add to that that Wii games still MSRP for $49.99 on average compared to the new generation price of $59.99 and you can see numerous reasons why Microsoft might have pushed more total sales than Nintendo. Although seeing as the PS3 stuff is on par or even more expensive than the Xbox 360 goods make it's numbers even less impressive compared to the Wii. Nintendo joined in on the spin as well, boasting that their platforms accounted for 60% of 2007's growth, yet the actual fact stands that the Xbox 360 still maintains the best attach rate for the new generation consoles with an impressive seven titles purchased for each machine.
Graph of current generation sales revenue. Red area of Wii column shows the discrepancy generated by how much less the Wii costs (doesn't include software differences) compared to it's competitors. All spin regardless, no one wins here.
And The Winner Is...
Despite what the Sony Defense Force may say and how the numbers are spun, certainly not the PlayStation 3. Although Sony's little George Forman Grill may be the best media hub available it has not performed up to expectations. Although the little black box can run Blu-Ray and bang out some serious number crunching for Folding@Home, the machine has not been privy to solid sales or a great number of exclusive hits. As the breakdown shows, the PlayStation 3 couldn't pull a win in any category that we covered but did perform well in overall title quality, crushing the Wii and grabbing a close second to Xbox 360. The picture did change a bit when one took into account exclusives but the PS3 still kept its second place finish. Overall though, PlayStation 3 would receive a somewhat distant third to the Wii and 360.
So this is really the hard choice. One the one hand the Wii managed to outsell the Xbox 360 throughout the year, even surpassing the worldwide sales of it's more powerful competitor despite launching a year later. But the 360 does not go down easy, picking up not only the higher selling games category but also better overall scores and two more exclusives. In the end that simply gives three victories for the 360 and only one for the Wii. The Wii really picked up some serious ground this year and could have taken the win if only enough consoles hit the market, along with solid titles to back up the new control scheme. Like so many other media darlings, it seems that the Wii could not live up to the hype this year but the Xbox 360 should have a hell of a fight next year as developers begin releasing titles for the Wii after having some time to get used to it's innovative controls and Nintendo continues to fill the hardware demand. Bottom line, Xbox 360 claims 2007 in our books.