Continuing our in-depth look at last year's sales report, Kristan picks over the DS and PSP's first years and even spends a bit of time on the Game Boy Advance. All data taken from Chart-Track's annual report, used with permission.
DS: Double Trouble?
Having launched back in March 2005, Nintendo's new handheld had almost a six-month head-start on Sony's PSP, but, in the final 2005 reckoning still found itself overtaken by the more powerful, more expensive machine. DS game sales accounted for an impressive-sounding 1.66m units, or three per cent of all games sold. By value, DS titles accounted for 3.4 per cent of the entire market with £4.14m.
By comparison, the GBA launched in June 2001 but still managed to shift almost as much software with £3.75m worth of games shifted in a shorter period of time (1.22m units), which was worth around 4.6 per cent of the value market at the time. On that basis alone, DS games have had a smaller impact in the UK than the GBA line-up did, though it has to be noted that the GBA had the entire handheld audience to itself, with the exception of the Pokemon-fuelled Game Boy/Game Boy Color market. Crucially, Nintendo didn't have to compete with Sony, either.
In terms of the big DS successes of last year, Super Mario 64 DS was far and away the biggest DS seller (and the second best selling handheld game overall after GTA), with impressive sales of over 200k - well up on the initial launch sales of Super Mario Advance in 2001 (which were around the 167k mark). Mario Kart DS' sales were, surprisingly, somewhat less stellar. Although sales of over 100k were enough to make it the second best-selling DS title of the year, Mario Kart: Super Circuit had a much bigger impact back in 2001, selling roughly 80 per cent more over a similar time frame - though the fact that it was the first ever handheld Mario Kart no doubt accounted for the greater demand. It may well make up that figure in time, but it certainly has a long way to go to catch up Super Circuit's cumulative sales of around 350k to date.
Predictably, Nintendo utterly dominated the top DS sellers, with combined sales of the three Nintendogs titles totalling almost 200k up to the end of 2005 (far and away the top selling being Lab & Friends with almost 100k). Despite WarioWare Inc being utterly ignored on GBA when it came out in 2003, WarioWare Touched proved a big hit with DS users, being the fourth best selling DS title of the year, with over 80k.
Elsewhere, the regular handheld stalwarts like Sonic Rush and Rayman DS did well with around 60k apiece, but perhaps the biggest surprise of the year is the number ten showing for Zoo Keeper with over 40k, outselling huge brands like The Sims 2, Pokemon, Harry Potter, Need For Speed, FIFA and King Kong. Nice work, Ignition, or, as the Zoo Keeper himself might put it, you have disgraced your family. Quite what the dire Asphalt GT is doing at number nine (with sales of almost 50k) is a complete mystery, though.
On the other end of the scale, it was disappointing to see so many of the DS' very best titles not hitting similar heights. For example, the excellent Advance Wars: Dual Strike was down in 22nd place with sales of over 20k, while EG cult favourites Polarium and Meteos were placed in 37th place, and number 46 with sales of around 10k respectively, while the excellent Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow managed a few thousand less in 50th place. It wasn't much of a surprise to see Another Code: Two Memories at number 32 (around 15k) but, still, sometimes there's no justice.
Gamers whinged all-year-long at Sony's decision to delay the European launch until September 1st, but in reality the intense hype surrounding the machine built up a must-have aura around the system, and when it launched sales were way beyond everyone's expectations. In the first few days on sale the PSP smashed all previous hardware launch sales figures by a factor of two - and all this despite rampant import sales that Sony had been preoccupied with squashing all year long.
Needless to say, software sales were exceptional, despite serious doubts from the critics who complained bitterly about the load times and the lack of killer apps.
Although the Chart-Track figures are heavily skewed by the presence of mandatory software bundling from Sony, the tactic worked, with total unit sales of 2.63m, or 4.8 per cent of all games sold. By value the picture is even rosier for Sony, with sales totalling some £8.17m, representing 6.7 per cent of the total market value - instantly catapulting it ahead of the GBA market (£6.05m) and almost double that of the DS market (£4.14m). In context, this percentage puts it ahead of mainstream launches of home systems like the N64, Saturn, Dreamcast, GameCube and even the Xbox at a similar stage in its life cycle - both in terms of software unit sales and value and even hardware sales. Next to any other handheld launch, the figures are unprecedented whichever angle you look at them.
Game sales wise, you can probably guess that GTA: Liberty City Stories completely ran away with it. In just eight weeks, Rockstar clocked up over 360k, making it the best selling handheld title since Pokemon Yellow back in summer 2000. World Tour Soccer did incredibly well, too, with sales of not far short of 200k, but these figures are somewhat bogus because the game's sales were largely because of Sony's cunning bundle deal which obliged consumers to buy the game with the console for a while - during a period when demand was intense and supply very short.
Beyond that, football titles appear to be the hottest property among PSP owners long starved of decent handheld games in the genre. The arrival of Pro Evolution Soccer 5 in week 47 was very warmly received indeed, with sales of almost 150k - over 20k ahead of FIFA 06, which gives a fair indication of the continuing shift in the balance of power in the all-important football market.
EA's overall performance on the platform was excellent, though, with Need For Speed: Most Wanted and Burnout: Revenge both selling around 100k - two of the biggest sellers on the platform. In general, racing games proved to be a massive lure for the game buying public, with Midnight Club 3, WipEout Pure and Need For Speed Underground: Rivals selling over 50k, and TOCA Race Driver, Crash Tag Team Racing and even WRC not far off that figure - respectable quantities that would be considered successful on most other home systems.
In the 'EG favourites' category there were also some heart-warming successes. Top of the list was the surprise number ten success of the brilliant Lumines (over 70k), while other cracking titles like Ridge Racer (over 90k), Everybody's Golf and Virtua Tennis (both around 70k) also performed exceptionally well.
Even leftfield titles like Archer Maclean's Mercury (over 35k) did reasonably well, and - for once - we don't really have any major sob stories of brilliant underperforming titles. Maybe Frantix and Gripshift deserved to do better (less than 5k each), but they barely had any publicity and were released during the Christmas rush, so it's hardly a shock.
What is a surprise is just how many competing titles there were available in such a short space of time. To have 53 titles on the shelves from September 1st to mid December (13 each from Sony and EA alone) has to represent the biggest array of launch software on any platform, ever, and it's doubtful it will ever happen again. Of course, the massive delay ensured there would be a vast glut, and much of the quality was patchy at best, but Sony made the impact it wanted to.
The interesting thing will be to watch whether the platform's momentum stalls. Certainly, the quality of software has been a major talking point all year, and many question marks remain. Hopefully E3 will provide one or two pointers as to the direction of future PSP output.
Game Boy's advanced years
In its fifth year on sale, GBA sales still rule the handheld roost in terms of units sales, with 3.08m games sold during 2005 and 5.6 per cent market share, though its overall market share, by units, dropped by one percentage point on 2004 when sales reached a peak of 3.47m (£7.63m). In terms of the value of those sales, 2005 netted £6.05m, or put another way, five per cent of the market (down from 6.4 per cent in 2004).
In terms of games, Pokemon Emerald outsold all comers, with almost 150k - some way down from where the brand was at its peak, but enough to keep sales of Fire Red and Leaf Green ticking over nicely with over 50k sales of each. Unlike the DS listings, there's barely a decent 'gamers' game' in the entire list, with the charts clogged up with child-friendly licensed fodder, such as Simpsons Road Rage (almost 140k), while The Incredibles, Scooby Doo: Mystery Mayhem and Bratz Rock Angelz all sold over 60k. As ever, THQ is far and away the king of the GBA, with 12 games in the top 20 alone.
Bizarrely, critically appreciated games like Donkey Kong: King of Swing rank way down the sales charts in 114th place (less than 7k), while it's a similar story for Yoshi's Universal Gravitation (130th), with Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones (141st), Donkey Kong Country 3 (176th) and Rare's underrated It's Mr Pants (185th place) selling even less. Even the rather wonderful Mario Power Tennis failed, hitting 205th place and selling just over 2k. Meanwhile, anything with a Pixar, cartoon or film license on it sells bucketloads... Incredibles Power Tennis, anyone?
Ever wondered what the all-time GBA best-sellers in the UK were? Read on.
- Mario Kart: Super Circuit
- Pokemon Ruby
- Finding Nemo
- Pokemon Sapphire
- Monsters, Inc.
- Pokemon Fire Red
- The Incredibles
- Sonic Advance
- Pokemon Leaf Green
- The Simpsons: Road Rage
And if you're wondering how the PC and Xbox 360 fared in 2005, join us again tomorrow when we take a look, and round off our coverage of Chart-Track's annual sales report.