VGChartz has come under some scrutiny in the last couple of weeks over PlayStation Move estimates with figures released from Sony seemingly showing significantly larger sales than we reported. There are two fundamental reasons for this - firstly is that Sony is referring to a different measure of sales to VGChartz. Secondly, VGChartz underestimated their sales by around 20%.
Last week, Sony reported that PlayStation Move had sold 1 million units in the Americas and somewhere in the region of 1.5 million units in Europe. First thing to remember here is that to Sony (and indeed any manufacturer) a sale is counted as a sale by them to retailers - in other words "ship-in" by most analyst definitions. So by October 23rd, Sony claims to have shipped 2.5 million Move's worldwide to retailers.
The first difference in reporting here is the difference between units shipped-in to retail and units sold by retail to stores. Based on current VGChartz estimates, 50% of all Move controllers shipped-in have been sold-through to date. Two independent trackers seem to support this figure - analyst Michael Pachter commented that around 300,000 Move controllers had been sold in the USA during September (likely based on NPD data). Adding sales for Canada and Latin America, and sales for October upto the 23rd, the figure swells to around 480,000 units (1.15 is the typical ratio for USA to Americas and VGChartz tracking is showing October sales to date are around 30% of September sales). Even if one assumed that October sales to date were more like 50% of September sales, the figure would be 520,000 units - a far cry from the one million units shipped to date by Sony. Moving to Europe, it was announced a couple of weeks back that Move had sold 60,000 units from a 100,000 shipment in Italy. These are two isolated examples, but I just want to prove the point that a 50% - 60% sell-through rate a few weeks from launch with the holidays approaching is a common occurance and supported by two independent tracking services. So a sell-through of 1.25 million, as VGChartz estimates based on internal data, as of October 23rd isn't unreasonable.
The second difference in reporting is that VGChartz believes that the number of unique Move users is more meaninful than the number of controllers sold. As a developer, you are targetting a percentage of PS3 owners who are "Move-compatible", not the number of individual controllers sold. It also makes far more sense when comparing sales of Move to Kinect or Wii - if four people play Kinect or a customer buys a Wii with four controllers it counts as one sale, not four. Therefore, using historical trends on controller attach ratios, VGChartz reported Move sales as unique owners - a typical launch ratio for a new console is 1.7 controllers per console. This brings current Move sales to around 750,000 units by our estimates - seemingly far smaller than the 2.5 million figure given by Sony, but more representitive of the number of PS3s out there that are actually Move compatible.
Moving back to VGChartz figures, our current data shows the following cumulative sales:
Week 1 - 200,000 units
Week 2 - 395,000 units
Week 3 - 515,000 units
Week 4 - 600,000 units
Week 5 - 680,000 units
Week 6 - 745,000 units
Which ties in well with what other tracking agencies are reporting and represents realistic take-up of Move-compatible PS3s. The last sales report we did was in week 4 at 470,000 units which is considerably lower than the 600,000 units we are now placing on week 4 (22% in fact) and VGChartz did undertrack Move sales initially (any videogame product that sells well in non-gaming stores is hard to track accurately), but not by the margins that Sony's figures may suggest at first glance. It is also clear that with Sony still selling over 100,000 Move controllers per week, they will easily sell-through the remaining ~1.25 million by the end of the year (if not significantly more). Current VGChartz estimates place controller shipments at around 5 million units by March 2011, just over 4 million sold-through and close to 2.5 million Move-compatible PS3s.
Next week, VGChartz will publish a discussion with key analysts on the performance of PlayStation Move and other current videogame products and give expectations for the rest of the quarter.
Edit - since some are still questioning the motives behind tracking Move sales in this way, I'll paste some comments in here for everyone to read:
Why do we look at unique buyers for Move whereas we are happy with sold units for normal hardware? Most people own one console with anything from 1 to 4 controllers. Yes there are cases where people buy replacement consoles (RROD etc), new models (PS3 slim, 360 slim) but generally speaking most people buy one PS3, one copy of Gran Turismo, one copy of Uncharted 2 and a number of controllers. The situation with Move sales is very different to hardware sales and it is totally unfair and misleading to count individual controller sales when we are trying to compare Move userbase to say Kinect or Wii userbase.
The only reason we bother to track hardware sales in the first place is because we want to know the potential userbase. As a developer, I want to know how many potential buyers are out there for my product. If I am releasing a Move title this week, I could expect sales upto a potential maximum of around 750,000 if I had a 100% take-up rate. Unless people went out and bought multiple copies of my game (and why would they?) then the fact that there are 1.25 million controllers out there or 2.5 million controllers in homes and at retail make no difference to how much software I can sell. What is important is how many PS3s are Move compatible and that is what we are estimating here.
That is why we are tracking Move in this way.