Analysis: February sales numbers

Legs. Nintendo games have ‘em.

Capcom brought one of its biggest guns out last month in the form of Street Fighter IV, but still couldn’t topple Nintendo’s Wii Fit juggernaut in The NPD Group’s February sales numbers. Sure, if you took SFIV’s numbers on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, the title would have outsold Wii Fit by more than 200,000…but no single SKU could touch Wii Fit.

Get used to it, too: Wii Fit is much more than just a game, it’s a platform. Until Nintendo starts selling its Wii balance board separately, consumers must purchase Wii Fit to take advantage of the growing library of games that use the board.

About those legs: with DS sales totaling more than a half million last month, it’s no wonder Nintendo’s older yet killer apps for its handheld are selling well. Mario Kart DS and New Super Mario Bros, released in November 2005 and May 2006 respectively each outsold titles like THQ’s Deadly Creatures for Wii, a title that drew decent reviews.It is hard to imagine a DS library without those two staples of Nintendo gaming.

Good or bad reviews don’t always have an impact on sales, as we’ve seen with the two-year-old Wii Play, which placed fourth on the chart but was generally met with mixed reviews. Our straw poll at local Maryland retailers suggest that Wii Play is a mere $10 game that comes with an extra remote that several consumers require.

Aside from SFIV, Sony’s [SNE] Killzone 2 positioned itself as yet another PS3 exclusive that could help move systems. While popular exclusives are a great way to do that, so far Sony isn’t buckling on a PS3 price cut despite mounting pressure from publishers, who are now neck-deep in Wii Kool-Aid.

One big title isn’t in the top 10 because NPD does not track online content sales: Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned, exclusive to 360. While Take-Two Interactive [TTWO] won’t give specifics, it did say the downloadable episode represented the largest dollar take in Xbox Live history. That’s no surprise considering it was also one of the most expensive at $20.

In the handheld arena, PSP didn’t even sell half as many units as DS, but rumors of Sony’s handheld’s demise are greatly exaggerated. Instead, Sony is ramping up an impressive lineup for the system later this year. We wouldn’t be the least big surprised if PSP’s year-on-year sales are higher this fall, but still won’t come close to the DS(i) juggernaut.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s [MSFT] 360 continues to cement its second-place standing. According to NPD analyst Anita Frazier, February was the system’s biggest non-holiday month since September 2007 when Halo 3 launched.

The industry as a whole continues to see growth. February saw a 10 percent rise in sales versus February last year. NPD says unit sales grew more (11 percent) than dollars did because of a slightly lower average selling price in all categories compared to last year.

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