In recent weeks our coverage of the Japanese chart results has shown a certain pattern — sales are low and showing a lack of momentum. Despite two new home consoles in the past six months and Nintendo beginning to step up its efforts with both Wii U and 3DS, the latest figures for US retail sales are also showing a lack of progress for the games market; NPD has reported that Q1 sales (1st January to 31st March) actually dropped 1% compared to last year.
Sony's PS4 and the Xbox One launched late last year, while some early monthly results for 2014 have shown Wii U sales up in comparison to equivalent 2013 figures. Nevertheless, while total hardware sales in the first three months of the year are 47% higher than last year, physical software sales fell 27% and gaming accessories 11%. On the flipside, download content recorded by NPD showed a 4% growth over last year, the only category aside from hardware to increase.
As figures covering three months, in which a continued burst of momentum was no doubt desired with Sony and Microsoft's new systems on the market, it's certainly disappointing to see a small overall drop over last year's numbers. The struggles of PS4 and and Xbox One titles to make a bigger mark, also affected by a limited release schedule for both, may be an early source of concern. From Nintendo's perspective it reported a degree of success earlier in the year with Bravely Default on 3DS, but Wii U increases sit against a backdrop of poor equivalent figures in 2013 — increased sales are welcome, but there's been little suggestion that the Wii U enjoyed the required performance improvement early in the year, with Nintendo missing its hardware sales targets for the home console and also lowering its 3DS expectations.
In the near future Nintendo will likely put a lot of focus on Mario Kart 8 and Tomodachi Life, while Microsoft has a Kinect-free Xbox One model on the way. E3 will also be vital, as Nintendo and its rivals aim to excite consumers and improve all-round sales — there'll be pressure on the big companies to make this generation of systems exciting to many millions more than those already invested.