Software and Hardware: ‘Ware’ Does it Go Wrong?

Strong Hardware does not equal large sales, you need the software (games) line up to be strong too.

The WiiU has sold 3.61 million consoles, this may sound like a lot, but compare it to the sales the Wii produced — more than 20 times more, at 100.04 million. If you also look at the PlayStation Vita, it has sold 2.2 million, compared to the PlayStation Portable (PSP) which has sold more, at 76.3 million.

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Linking Hardware Sales to Software

So, why are these consoles, which both have great hardware, especially the PlayStation Vita, getting really low sales. Especially when compared to lower powered and older consoles. As you can see, this isn’t just for the living room consoles (the Xbox, PlayStation, the Wii) but also for handhelds.

Poorly selling consoles, why?

I believe it comes down to the games, there needs to be a constant supply of at least one good game for the console every few months. The PlayStation Vita looked to have a strong opening line up, mainly with Uncharted: Golden Abyss, but it is still, even now, selling less than the PlayStation Portable month on month. So, as you can see the answer lies in the software.

The WiiU and PlayStation Vita offer 1 or 2 killer apps (great games) each, but nothing more. With the WiiU it’s Super Mario Bros WiiU, and the PlayStation Vita it’s Uncharted: Golden Abyss, as the core games, and arguably the best games on the console. Except just these launch games are not going to make anyone, except for maybe the most hardcore fans, buy the console at launch, the proof is in the numbers.

Even if the hardware is the best anyone has ever seen, this does not create sales. The games offered need to be as good, or better than the hardware to justify people spending their money on the new console.

Selling consoles, why?

The PlayStation family has always had good sales, and they are all loved, the only exception, the PlayStation Vita, which is still loved, even with it’s lower sales.

Numbers time!

  • PlayStation 1 sold 102.49 million
  • PlayStation 2 sold 155 million
  • PlayStation 3 sold 75 million (IDC March 2013 estimate: 78 million)

I believe the PlayStation 3 is selling less because of the price, and it’s main competitor, the Xbox family.

New kid on the block, Microsoft released the Xbox in 2001, it sold 24 million units, which is super good for a new console. It boasted the best online system ever and faster loading times. Its good sales are in part due to Halo: Combat Evolved, as well as a host over other great games. Halo 2 helped to continue these sales with its multiplayer features. Its successor, the Xbox 360, has sold 78.2 million – very similar to the PlayStation 3. Add the sales up and you get 156 million.

Going back to the sales of PlayStation and why the PlayStation 3 did not sell more than its predecessors are that the older PlayStations owned the market, they were the best, but not the most powerful – much like our friend the Nintendo DS. Selling a staggering 153.93 million (the second highest sold console, the first being the PlayStation 2) it is no wonder it is many people’s favourite console.

So, why do low powered consoles sell more? Well the answer, again, lies in the games. I could list all the amazing exclusive games the PlayStation family offers but you all know what they are. The Xbox offers Halo, Forza, and Gears of War at its core line up, and the PlayStation offers Uncharted, Killzone, and Metal Gear Solid. Some of these games are generation spanning, some are just on the new generation, but all of them drove the sales of the consoles.

So, are the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 lower powered than any other? Well, not currently, but as you can see they have sold less than even the very underpowered DS, this is because the DS offers a whole host of amazing games, and not just for you, the gamer, but also for your Grandma, your 3-year-old child, or your best friend who only plays Facebook social games. The DS has a line up as vast as the PlayStation family, and a fan base as dedicated as League of Legends, or World of Warcraft. It has the games, and offers a lot more than what you initially invest in it.

Hopes for Next Generation

My hopes for the next generation are not small. If the new consoles want to do well, this is one way they can do this (but not the only). What they need are a few amazing launch games, only 3 or 4 at most, along with some smaller indie games following up shortly after. This does look like what the PlayStation 4 is doing, to some extent, but not the Xbox One.

The Xbox One needs to be less motivated by launch games, and think, what is it that our console will offer a year, or 18 months down the line? Will the games offered go stale, making sales drop, or will they keep on bringing out great new games, or sequels to already great games, and just make them better?

This means that a console, or any platform, needs to be able to not only offer great games at launch, but also be able to prove it can offer great content further down the line, otherwise the sales will only go down.

So, how do you do this? Well, I will be honest with you, I have no idea. That job is down to the marketing, the research and development and game developer teams out there. But also the publishers, they need to take more risks, and have lower budget games, a friend of mine wrote an interesting article on sequels, and game budgets here.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you going to buy a next generation console now? What was your fondest memory of any console (I bet it involves a game, not the apps offered on the console)? Let me know what you think, or what you don’t think, in the comments below.

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Pierre Fouquet
-- Games are a passion as well as a hobby. Other writing of mine found on at