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Posts Tagged ‘Smash Bros Brawl’

As has become the monthly norm around here, we’re diving into the latest NPD numbers and reading the tea leaves so you don’t have to!  Liquid Architecture is not afraid to be servicey.the-ides-of-march

The March report shows a 17% decline in overall sales from March of last year, which brings the total sales number for Q1 ’09 back down to earth.  But nobody’s jumping out a window just yet.  Easter fell in March of last year, so that and the release of Smash Bros. Brawl contributed to a better-than-average showing.  I’m actually not surprised to hear that there’s a direct correlation between the Christian feast of the Resurrection and an uptick in game sales.  I can actually remember quite a few Easter baskets that included a videogame… and for some reason they tended be a GameBoy game.  I guess handheld systems are more appropriate for springtime?

If anything, the March report shows why this industry is so healthy, in spite of one down month.  This month’s Top 10 shows tremendous diversity among systems, with a top 5 comprised of two 360 games, and one each for the PS3, DS, and Wii:

1. Resident Evil 5 – Xbox 360 – Capcom – 938K
2. Pokemon Platinum – DS – Nintendo – 805K
3. Halo Wars – Xbox 360 – Microsoft – 639K
4. Resident Evil 5 – PS3 – Capcom – 585K
5. Wii Fit w/ balance board – Wii – Nintendo – 541K
6. MLB ’09 The Show – PS3 – Sony – 305K
7. Killzone 2 – PS3 – Sony – 296K
8. Wii Play w/ remote – Wii – Nintendo – 281K
9. Mario Kart w/ wheel – Wii – Nintendo – 278K
10. Major League Baseball 2K9 – Xbox 360 – Take-Two – 205K

There’s something to be said for diversity of audience served as well.  The very kid-friendly Pokemon Platinum settled firmly into #2, among decidely hardcore titles like RE5, Halo Wars and Killzone 2. Both Major Leage Baseball games found their audience of sports fans, rounding out Nintendo’s Holy Trinity of top sellers.

The real eyebrow raiser for March is what’s NOT on the list. The fact that GTA: Chinatown Wars sold less then 100,000 units represents a rare sales misfire from Rockstar.  It released to solid enthusiast press reviews, but it didn’t translate to the same impressive sales numbers as the previous GTA handheld installments on the PSP.  This is a pretty clear indication of just how many of those millions of DS owners actually pay attention to hardcore gamer press.

I’ll be interested to see how this weak showing figures in to Rockstar’s future plans for Nintendo hardware.  Does this mean the “experiment” Strass Zelnick talked up in March was a failure?  Does their existing IP really appeal to Nintendo’s audience?  Personally, I’d love to see them give the Bully universe another look, possibly as a Wii or DS exclusive.  It really brought together everything that made GTA such a joy to play, but stripped out a lot of the edgier content that can be a turnoff for so many.  Certainly worth a look if you missed it the first time, especially alongside the superb Bully Game Club podcast series from Rebel FM.Bully Wii

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As another stellar PAX show wound down this weekend, Sony completed a more-or-less clean sweep of industry show prerelease buzz for LittleBigPlanet. The construction/platformer/multiplayer collaboration defies all current genre (yours truly is calling it a “toybox” game) and is quick to make fans wherever it pops up. It dominated E3 “Game of Show” lists, was named Leipzig’s Game of the Show, and popped in quite a few places at PAX, including the offbeat “How to Get Your Girlfriend into Video Games” panel.

Perhaps the most compelling argument for LBP is just how much stock Sony is putting in the game’s all-things-to-all-people mascot, Sackboy.  He’s truly a modern icon for the consumer generated content era: a blank (albeit cute and cuddly) slate to take on whichever identity makes the most sense for your game.  Whereas Mario (nee Jumpman) injected a little character into stacks of pixels nearly 30 years ago, Sackboy and his crew can be infused with all the personality you need.  Sony’s even releasing an 80G hardware bundle featuring LBP in Europe.

Perhaps most importantly, LBP is the latest in a line of unbelievably good titles that aim to occupy the space somewhere between a game and full-blown platform.  Rock Band and later editions of Guitar Hero continue to deliver weekly content to suit a wide variet of tastes, from The Who to Nirvana song packs.  Nintendo packed a robust level editor into the already-superb Super Smash Brothers Brawl, and the community still pumps out engaging level designs almost 6 months after its release.  Soul Calibur IV is currently flying off the shelves, due in large part to one of the deepest create-a-character modes ever seen in a console brawler.

While it’s true that these games rely heavily on the efforts of an engaged community, they also require a substantial commitment from developers.  LBP developer Media Molecule has made it clear that they have no followup project in mind yet.  For the months, maybe even years after it ships, they will be in the business of supporting and expanding LBP. And I applaud the effort.

Can LittleBigPlanet deliver on expectations?  Will it truly make us all one step closer to self publishers?  Will it finally deliver a sustainable experience supported by smart, effective in-game advertising?  Only time will tell, and I can hardly wait until October to find out.

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