What August’s Numbers Mean for Software

Madden Signals Platform Shift 

Following its strong showing in July, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 followed with a critical Madden NFL win in August. Electronic Arts sold more than 896,000 copies of Madden NFL 08 on the Xbox 360 and eked out over 120,000 copies on the original Xbox. This puts the Microsoft platform just ahead of Sony in Madden NFL sales for the first month.

As the graph above illustrates, first month sales of Madden NFL on Microsoft systems is generally on an upward trend. The timing of the retail calendar and the launch of Madden NFL 07 makes it difficult to compare the data for the first month sales of Madden NFL 07 to the other three years. Specifically, Madden NFL 07 was only on sale for five days during NPD’s August 2006 reporting period. By comparison, Madden NFL 05 was on sale for 20 days in August 2004, Madden NFL 06 was on sale for 19 days in August 2005, and Madden NFL 08 was on sale for 19 days during August 2007. Neglecting the data from 2006, the image is more clear: Sony peaked in 2005 and has been diminishing since, while Microsoft has been making gains each year. Taken together with the NCAA Football 08 numbers from July, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 does appear to be the new main platform for EA Sports titles. One can surmise that Microsoft was well aware of this trend when it featured Madden NFL 08 in its early August 2007 press release announcing the price drops on Xbox 360 hardware.


EA Fumbles on the Wii

While EA also released a version of Madden NFL 08 for the Nintendo Wii, that version did not make the top 10 along with the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 2 versions of the game. Instead it came in at #12 on the top 20 list at 116,000 copies, right behind the version for the original Xbox which moved just a little over 120,000 units.

During November 2006, the Nintendo Wii version of Madden NFL 07 actually sold fairly well considering that fewer than 500,000 people owned Wiis in the United States at that time. This year, with more than eight times as many Wii owners, the Wii version of Madden NFL 08 didn’t even manage to triple the first-month sales from the previous year.

To put this in a bit more perspective, last year almost 10 out of every 100 Wii owners bought a copy of Madden NFL 07 for the Wii. This year, with the larger installed base, just under 3 in every 100 Wii owners purchased the Wii version of Madden. By comparison, nearly 1 in 7 Xbox 360 owners and 1 in 5 PlayStation 3 owners bought the latest version of Madden NFL during August 2007.

Keep in mind, this isn’t an indictment of the Wii on its own. Rather, it means that the Wii could very well be attracting non-traditional gamers who aren’t as likely to pick up Madden as something more approachable like Wii Play. It means that if EA intends to be successful on the Wii, it will have to figure out what Wii owners really want.

Unfortunately for Electronic Arts its other big August Wii game, Boogie, isn’t what gamers want either. With dozens of licensed songs and many ideas borrowed from popular music and rhythm games, the game has reviewed poorly in the press (60% on GameRankings as of this writing) and the public appears to mostly agree with that assessment. Despite being out for most of the August reporting period, Boogie sold fewer than 70,000 units in August. In early September EA announced that it would be bringing a version of Boogie out for the Nintendo DS and the PlayStation 2. By targeting these two huge userbases, EA clearly hopes it can sell enough units to justify the title’s development.