Analysis: What Do The 3DS's Sales Figures Say About Rumours Of Trouble For Handheld Gaming Consoles?
I've been spilling a lot of ink recently about handheld gaming and smartphones - like, a lot a lot; so much so that I'm beginning to wonder if it's my "thing" as a writer here. Some developers are getting cold feet about new handheld consoles (while others are not), while sales of smartphones and smartphone games are skyrocketing. Meanwhile, Nintendo has its eyes on Apple as a future (if not current) contender. The internet is rife with nervous stories about what will come of handheld consoles, with some writers going so far as to call game over already. The 3DS's lacklustre performance earlier this year has been often cited as proof that gamers just aren't interested in laying out money for a handheld console when they already own a smartphone.
Earlier this year, Nintendo slashed the price of the 3DS in an attempt to get sales moving. Many commenters (this writer included) suggested that the 3DS' sluggish sales had more to do with its price point - $249 US seemed awful high, considering - than iPhones or Android.
So how has the 3DS been doing since the price cut?
Sales data from VGChartz indicates that the 3DS has sold better worldwide than any other console on the market since its price drop, pushing over 900 000 units in August (300 000 better than the PS3, its closest competitor) and almost 900 000 again in September (over 150 000 better than the PS3, again its closest competitor). To contrast, in July the system sold just over 300 000 units, putting it behind the PSP and ahead of the PS2 in sales, and in June it was in the same position, pushing just over 400 000. In the month of May, however, the system's sales were down around 300 000 again, suggesting the higher June number may have been a bump from the release of the Ocarina of Time 3D. The fact is, the system's current sales are its best since the 3DS's launch.
I'll be the first to admit there are a lot of other factors that may be affecting the system's sales, but it's pretty hard to argue at this point that the 3DS's price point was a major - if not the major - stumbling block the system faced. Yes, it needs more games; yes, 3D seems to turn some people off; and yes...well...well, you've seen that extra stick thing... But when a system's price drops and its sales triple for two months straight...well, that's a signal.
Whether or not selling around 900 000 units a month is a sign that a system is failing against competition from iOS and Android is a much harder question to answer. Who knows how long the momentum will last (though, coming into the holiday season, when everyone's numbers traditionally soar, these sales figures may well be making Nintendo execs breathe a sigh of relief). And what will the PS Vita's launch tell us? After all, it will be selling around the 3DS's former price point, albeit with some mighty fancy tech.
Regardless, data are better than speculation, and the actual data on handheld console sales show that, for the 3DS, something big happened over the summer; and, for the last two months at least, the system has found some traction.