The Japan Preview: 2/19/2012 Edition (3DS tops 5m units) - News/ 7,803 Views
Software sales have picked up a bit this week in Japan. Although none of the new games topped 100,000 units in their first week on the market, several new games did top 50,000 units which is a fairly strong result in the absence of one or two very strong sellers. Major 3DS games from late 2011 have also picked up a bit, suggesting a decent hardware lift for the platform this week in Japan as New Love Plus and Thearhythm Final Fantasy both performed adequately for Konami and Square-Enix.
1) Binary Domain (PS3) - 77,000
2) Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (3DS) - 64,000
3) New Love Plus (3DS) - 57,000
4) Mario Kart 7 (3DS) - 28,000
5) Super Mario 3DLand (3DS) - 22,000
6) Monster Hunter Portable 3G (3DS) - 21,000
7) Sengoku Musou 3Z Special (PSP) - 18,000
8) Resident Evil: Revelations (3DS) - 14,000
10) Tekken 3D: Prime Edition (3DS) - 12,000
10) Gravity Daze (Vita) - 12,000
12) Just Dance Wii (Wii) - 8,000
12) Genso Suikoden: Tsumugareshi Hyakunen no Toki (PSP) - 8,000
15) Kyoukugen Dasshutsu ADV: Zennin Shiboudesu (3DS) - 7,000
15) Ragnarok Odyssey (Vita) - 7,000
15) Monster Hunter Portable 3 (PSP) - 7,000
In addition to the games above, Inazuma Eleven Go (3DS), Armored Core 3 (PS3), Wii Sports Resort (Wii), Photokano (PSP), and Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure (3DS) should end up in the final top 20 data for the week.
With the new software releases for the week, 3DS software has roughly doubled over last week, which will likely lead to a small hardware push. Even without a hardware push, 3DS will top 5m units in Japan this week after launching late in February 2011. That means the system has topped 5m units in its first year. The only systems to ever top 5m units in a single year in Japan since 1990 are DS and PS1. GBA, PS2, Wii, GB, PSP and SNES all topped out at around 4m units per year before dropping. N64, PS3, Saturn and others all topped out at around 2m or less in a year.
As a point of comparison, 3DS is only 2.85m units behind PS3, a system on the market for about five years and three months, after launching the week after PS3 had built a 6.35m base in Japan. It is thus entirely possible that 3DS will pass PS3 by the end of the year, which bodes very well for its future. Passing larger platforms, like Wii or PSP is still a bit uncertain, but again, those platforms never topped 5m units in a year, so it is fairly likely that 3DS will be at least as big as Wii in Japan (13m+) and it could be bigger than PSP too (19m+).
Vita, as a point of comparison, looks like it will be at 575,000 units in Japan through 10 weeks on the market. PSP launched in late 2004 (compared to Vita's late 2011 launch), but reached 600,000 units in six weeks. DS sold only 3.9m units in its first year on the market, compared to 5.0m for 3DS, even though DS was 750,000 units ahead of 3DS through ten weeks, so it will be interesting to see if Sony will consider a large price cut to get Vita back to at least PSP numbers. At the moment though, 3DS is tracking to have an 8-10m base in Japan by the end of 2012, while Vita might get to only 2m or so. In comparison, at the end of 2005, due to launching at the same time, DS was only at 5.6m in Japan to 2.7m for PSP.
Working on that data, and recognizing that Nintendo's share of software sales on DS was far greater than Sony's share on PSP, it made sense for publishers to support both platforms well, as the software markets looked to be close theoretically. However, once DS had solid Nintendo support and third party support in 2006-2007, it sold like nothing ever has in Japan - 15.6m in two years (150,000 per week on average for two years), while PSP was blunted to only 5m. If 3DS has a larger lead on Vita a year end 2012 than DS had on PSP at the end of 2005, say 9.2m to 2.2m rather than 5.6m DS systems to 2.7m PSPs, a similar thrashing could happen for a year or two, with 3DS topping Vita by 2:1 to 5:1 (in weeks both have been out, 3DS has topped Vita by a 3:1 margin). Publishers would presumably have an even harder time making Vita a major platform than they did with PSP though, as the Vita should launch slower than PSP in the West, as it has in Japan, even as development costs have gone up, making profitability much harder.
The other point to watch with 3DS is how it sets up the Wii to Wii U transition. Japan definitely became very Nintendo centric from about December 2005 to December 2008 when the DS, and then Wii had steady streams of innovative software. As the innovative software dried up, 2009-2010 moved to roughly parity between Nintendo and Sony for consoles and closer to it for portables, and then in 2011 PSP and PS3 topped DS and Wii for the first time ever (although 2011 was really a great year for Nintendo portables too, they sold 5.0m 3DS and DS systems in Japan vs. 2.5m PSP and Vitas for Sony). The portable market has definitely moved away from parity since the 3DS launched, despite the Vita as PSP + Vita in early 2012 are trending a bit below PSP by itself in early 2011, and PSP only sold 2.0m in 2011 - so it will be interesting to see if the console market corrects backs to parity or to Nintendo with the Wii U.
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