5 Things We Learned From November 2014 NPD Including Call of Duty’s Decline and Nintendo’s Woes
Many gamers have been waiting anxiously for NPD Group to release its sales data for November 2014, and yesterday they finally made their way online. In many ways, the results were unpredictable, leading to widespread discussion within the gaming community for a variety of reasons.
There are five things that have emerged from November 2014’s NPD Group numbers, which we will detail below.
Not Even a Great Call of Duty Can Save Call of Duty
No matter how badly Activision wants its premier franchise to survive long into the future, the writing is on the wall. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare might have sold 4.1 million units during November, but that’s the lowest figure that the series has accomplished in over five years. To put it into perspective, Call of Duty: Ghosts sold around 6 million during November 2013, which equates to a near two million decline year-over-year.
What makes this particular concerning is how much better Advanced Warfare was received than Ghosts, with Advanced Warfare holding a Metascore of around 10 points higher than its predecessor. Activision even brought in A-list talent by starring Kevin Spacey in the single-player campaign to give it more mainstream flavor. It didn’t do enough to turn the tides, though.
This decline has nothing to do with marketing, either, because Call of Duty was on full attack before and after release. You could hardly go anywhere without hearing or seeing it in some way, shape, or form.
Advanced Warfare didn’t do enough to turn the tides.
At this point series fatigue has set in, and many of the most hardcore of Call of Duty gamers are beginning to skip a year or two. Activision is going to have to think about how it wants to proceed, because soon the series could become something that isn’t worth the time or effort of a multi-million dollar advertising campaign. Given how quickly Destiny has fallen off, chances are that won’t fill in the role, either.
The Xbox One is Alive and Well
Heading into November 2014 the Xbox One had been outsold in its home territory by the PS4 for nearly a full year. Microsoft put an epic stop to that with the debut of great software, a temporary price reduction during the holiday season, and a strong marketing push. As a result, it sold 1.2 million units during the month, a number that only the Xbox 360 and Wii were able to achieve in their prime (the PlayStation 2 never achieved such a number), and not until after they hit the golden $199 price point.
…it sold 1.2 million units during the month, a number that only the Xbox 360 and Wii were able to achieve in their prime…
The question remains as to whether or not Microsoft can retain momentum marching into 2015, especially given that it’s supposed to raise the Xbox One console price back up to $399 MSRP—I doubt this will happen. It has a dry Spring and Summer when it comes to first party software, and that could pose a problem.
Whatever the case may be, and no matter how the Xbox One stacks against the competition, the fact is that the console is selling well despite a rough public image early on. It’s already outsold the Wii U in half the time, and is outdoing what the PS3 and Xbox 360 achieved in their first year. As it grows a software library and inches its price point closer and closer to $199, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’ll thrive.
Nintendo is in Rough Shape
Looking at the first-party software of all three current-gen consoles, the Wii U undoubtedly earned a top podium finish in 2014. Whether it be Mario Kart 8, Bayonetta 2, or Super Smash Bros for Wii U, the Wii U has software, and it’s outstanding.
Super Smash Bros for Wii U was arguably the best game of the entire year, and it debuted right in the middle of November, the perfect time for a console push during the holiday season. Sadly, the game would sell fewer than 800,000 units during the month, and wouldn’t do much to push Wii U consoles. It is estimated that the Wii U sold around 200,000 to 225,000 units. That’s colossally bad.
The Wii U isn’t headed to Gamecube numbers (20 million~ lifetime), it’s headed to Dreamcast numbers (10.6 million~ lifetime. That’s sad when you consider how great the system’s games are, but it’s a sign that Nintendo is behind the times when it comes to execution.
Made worse, the 3DS sold 200,000 fewer units than it did during November of last year. This, combined with the horrifically bad PS Vita sales, point to handheld gaming quickly fading into obscurity everywhere but in Japan. Handhelds are where Nintendo has earned the bulk of its income over the years, making this a serious problem.
Amiibos may provide a nice boost for the next year, but Nintendo is going to need a lot more than that to stay healthy heading into the immensely competitive future.
Good Games Don’t Always Sell Well
Dragon Age: Inquisition didn’t chart during November 2014. To me, that’s baffling. I consider it one of the best games of the year, and undoubtedly the best RPG available on current-gen consoles. It’s a game with over 100 hours in content, an achievement that usually earns a game great sales figures during the holiday season. Additionally, it did a lot to appease fans after the mixed reception of Dragon Age 2. Even then, Inquisition sold around the same amount of units across five platforms as Dragon Age 2 did on three.
Inquisition sold around the same amount of units across five platforms as Dragon Age 2 did on three.
It’s hard to put a finger on what exactly caused this. Inquisition did have some marketing, and was a big topic among gamers during the month. Not charting doesn’t necessarily mean it sold poorly, and I’d guess that it hit somewhere around the 400,000 mark. However, most games earn the bulk of their sales during the first month, and Dragon: Age Inquisition didn’t even come close to the all-important one million milestone.
Next-Gen Remasters Aren’t As Big As Anticipated
Yes, Grand Theft Auto V sold well, but I’d reckon to guess that it didn’t perform as well during the month as Rockstar had anticipated. This is a game that broke records during 2013, achieving 34 million sales during its first year on the market. While many were willing to go out and buy the game a second time, it fell well behind Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare during November despite appearing in the same month and with arguably just as much marketing.
Meanwhile, The Last of Us Remastered was nowhere to be found, and one of our personal favorites, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, barely made the list at #10. Halo: MCC is one of our highest rated games of 2014, and outside of its matchmaking issues is the most dense and thoughtfully put-together video game collection in history. Even then it fell well short of the one million mark, something previously unfathomable for a Halo debut.
Next-gen remasters have been a big part of the early current-generation, and as much as they’ve helped to patch game droughts, they haven’t been as hot as expected.