Wii Play is number one for the apparently hit-centric Wii. Also, Rock Band for Wii is over a million sold, and there's sales data for Shaun White, de Blob, and Wario Land: Shake It!
NOTE: This story concerns NPD whole year sales. For December 2008 monthly sales, click here.
According to the numbers, 2008 was a good year for the games industry. It was also a very good year for Nintendo considering the top four titles in the US were for the Wii, not to mention a three-year-old DS game sold 1.64 million units this year. Also, four of the top five best-selling games of 2008 are available on the Wii, even when sales of different versions of multi-platform titles are combined.
2008 Top Five U.S. Software Sales (Platforms and Versions Combined)
Wii Play w/ Remote (Wii) – 5.28 million
Madden NFL '09 (Multiple, including Wii) – 5.25 million
Grand Theft Auto IV (X360, PS3, PC) – 5.22 million
Mario Kart Wii w/ Wheel (Wii) – 5.00 million
Call of Duty: World at War (Multiple, including Wii) – 4.63 million
There may have been doubt over Wii Play's status as the best-selling game of 2008, but even all the different versions of EA's Madden (including a Spanish-language version) combined couldn't unseat Nintendo's 2007 release.
It's worth noting that Wii Play could continue to sell at this pace as long as the Wii hardware exhibits strong sales due to Nintendo positioning the title as a remarkable value proposition for new Wii owners. Wii Play, which consists of nine mini-games, comes packed with a Wii Remote controller, meaning consumers can consider the $50 purchase as a $40 controller with an incredibly inexpensive $10 game. However, consumers aren't just buying the package: they're also playing the game. As MTV Multiplayer notes, Wii Play "does get played for more than nine hours by the average Wii owner."
Another thing to note, however narrow the view of the top five may be, is that four of the games are available for play on the Wii. Nintendo's two exclusives are joined by both Madden and Call of Duty: World at War, both of which have versions on the Wii. Both games are believed to sell much better on the other platforms, but the mere fact that they are available on the Wii reinforces the notion that the Wii is able to span a more-inclusive demographic than either of its competitors.
Separating each game's different versions, Nintendo still dominates the list.
2008 Top Ten U.S. Software Sales
Wii Play w/ Remote (Wii) – 5.28 million
Mario Kart Wii w/ Wheel (Wii) – 5.00 million
Wii Fit w/ Balance Board (Wii) – 4.53 million
Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) – 4.17 million
Grand Theft Auto IV (X360) – 3.29 million*>
Call of Duty: World at War (X360) – 2.75 million*
Gears of War 2 (X360) – 2.31 million*
Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3) – 1.89 million*
Madden NFL '09 (X360) – 1.87 million*
Mario Kart DS (DS) – 1.64 million
* Includes Collector's, Limited, Legendary, and Bundled Editions
Nintendo's Wii claimed the top software sales spots not just with Wii Play, but also with Mario Kart Wii, Wii Fit, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The latter three games were all released in the first half of the year.
Another thing to notice about Nintendo's top sellers is that Super Smash Bros. Brawl is the only title in the bunch that doesn't come with added hardware or a peripheral.
After the Wii's headliners come four Xbox 360 titles and one PS3 title, but the yearly charts are capped off by a surprising DS contribution: Mario Kart DS. Mario Kart DS reappeared on NPD's December Top Ten charts, but now we can also see that the more than three-year-old game has sold 1.64 million copies in 2008 alone, possibly also driven by new DS owners who demanded the title. Nintendo's ability to create games that can entice consumers over such a long period of time sets them apart from competitors who rely on front-loaded sales and games that are forgotten by consumers as soon as a month after release.
But that doesn't mean that third-party Activision didn't find success on the Wii.
2008 U.S. Sales Guitar Hero: World Tour vs. Rock Band 2
Guitar Hero: World Tour (Multiple) – 3.4 million
Rock Band 2 (Multiple) – 1.7 million
The year 2008 featured a big showdown between the fourth major iteration in the Activision's Guitar Hero franchise and the second Rock Band from MTV Games. Guitar Hero: World Tour has currently charted higher total sales, thanks in part to day one availability on the Wii. In comparison, Rock Band 2 arrived late on the Wii, yielding a lead of about two months to Activision's offering on the Nintendo system. A similar situation played out regarding the PlayStation 2 versions of both titles, suggesting that not only was the Guitar Hero brand stronger, but that MTV Games was giving up market share and sales by putting most of their focus on the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions.
However the battle played out, Nintendo claimed a victory regardless. A company press release touted that Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, Guitar Hero: World Tour, and Rock Band Special Edition Bundle (the six-month late port of the first Rock Band game) all "sold more units on Nintendo platforms than any other platforms in 2008."
There are also additional available 2008 numbers regarding a couple other Wii releases.
Additional 2008 U.S. Software Sales Estimates
Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip (Wii) – 470,000 (released November)
de Blob (Wii) – 250,000 (released September)
Wario Land: Shake It! (Wii) – 150,000 (released September)
Rock Band (Wii) – over a million (released June)
According to IGN, Ubisoft's Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip sold about 470,000 units in the U.S. These numbers suggest a healthy sales rate for the Ubisoft version of the snowboarding franchise, which is also available on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip also benefits from Wii Balance Board compatibility and the more than 4.5 million Balance Board peripherals out in the wild thanks to the huge sales of Wii Fit.
IGN also reported that NPD numbers showed that de Blob had performed modestly and hit 230,000 sales in the US between its September launch and year-end. THQ adapted the game from a student project, and when it was released on the Wii it received a warm welcome from critics. THQ has commented that they are "pleased with de Blob's performance worldwide" and that fans should "expect to see more of de Blob in the future."
In comparison, Wario Land: Shake It! Recorded 150,000 sales in the U.S. despite having been released the same day as de Blob.
Another tidbit concerns the whole-year performance of the Wii version of the first Rock Band game, which arrived six months late and was stripped of DLC functionality. It went on to sell more than a million units in the U.S. Market, probably helped in part by the extremely late December 22 Wii release of the more fully featured Rock Band 2.
The performance of games that aren't headlined by Nintendo characters has always been a topic of analysis among industry watchers. To this end, the 2008 sales data reveals an interesting statistic. According to NPD's Michael Klotz, the top ten Wii games accounted for "44 percent of the sales." In comparison, Klotz claimed that the PS3, Xbox 360, and PS2 had their top 10 games accounting for only "31 percent to 32 percent of the sales."
This means that game sales are being concentrated on relatively fewer titles. While games may be considered successes with relatively modest numbers, the million selling titles like Smash Bros. Brawl, Wii Fit, Guitar Hero: World Tour, or Rock Band are garnering the lions share of consumer attention.
However, there could still be a lot of sales to go around. Nintendo reported that third parties sold more games on the Wii than on any other platform in the critical holiday sales months of November and December, and that for the entire year "132 million games were sold in America for play on Nintendo systems."
Nintendo also benefited from the relentless adoption of their hardware systems throughout a year when the Wii and the DS would often fight for the number one spot. Ultimately, the Wii sold 10.17 million units in 2008 and the DS sold 9.95 million. Nintendo noted that "before 2008, no video game system had ever been purchased by ten million Americans in a single year."
In the face of this success, NPD's Anita Frazier thinks third parties will have to shape up after more than two years of questionable commitment to the Wii. "I think we'll see more third party games succeed at retail for this platform," she said, "it's a key platform for the third-party publishers to figure out how to be successful on."
Frasier also said that she believed that the industry would continue to grow in 2009, "albeit at a more modest pace," in the face of economic difficulties.
2008 U.S. Dollar Sales
Hardware – $7.81 billion
Software – $10.96 billion
Accessories – $2.57 billion
Total – $21.33 billion
This report contains information from reports by