While the recession's impact on the video game industry is still being computed, holiday season 2009's social chatter provided significant insight into possible sales trends we will soon see published from the likes of NPD and others.
Based on data collated from AggreTweet.com (powered by Twitter), we at Aggregame can share a number of interesting facts about 2009's holiday season: the Wii killed, the 360 not-so-much, and nobody got MW2!?
The Graphs Don't Lie:
As you can see from the below graphs, which were generated on December 29th 2009, there is a distinct influx in total tweets across the board exactly 4 days ago (Christmas day). Notice the platforms and games that showed the greatest delta; which may come as a surprise to some.
While this data is based solely on tweets, and takes no context into consideration (other than weeding out noise), we suspect that some very important conclusions and predictions may be culled from this data.
1] The Wii Killed!
Based on Twitter buzz, there was a 900% increase in tweets mentioning "Wii" which did NOT actually read "Wii Fit" "Wii Sports" or similar game title topics. Again, with no context, it's totally possible everyone was griping "Man, I wish I got a Wii for Christmas!!!" - but is that scenario more or less likely than people exclaiming "OMG setting up my Wii!!!"?
Initial sampling of actual tweet contexts have coroborrated the latter; that the cause of this increase in buzz is a result of kids and families opening their Chsistmas Wii's for the first time.
This increase is astonishing, and far exceeded our expectations. We've spent a lot of time in the industry, and have a lot of social data at our fingertips; and while we expected a certain percent increase in tweets across the board after Christmas, the Wii's 900% definitely blew our hair back.
2] The Playstation 3 Held Strong.
There was also a 26% increase in Playstation 3 buzz after Christmas, which may not intimidate Nintendo's 900% increase in post-Christmas chatter, as the Wii's performance was surprisingly high. Sony saw what we'd consider more expected growth in chatter.
One reason for Sony's steadfast growth may be the success of Uncharted 2, which won Spike TV's VGA Game of the Year award. The critically acclaimed sequel is a PS3 exclusive title, which could certainly aid in increased console sales. That, combined with the price cuts to the Playstation 3, the launch of the PS3 Slim, and Blu-ray winning the Format War, I'd say there's a number of industry forces that would aid in the overall growth for Sony's Playstation properties.
3] The Xbox 360 Surprised...
Well, strictly speaking, the Xbox 360 saw a 13% increase in Twitter buzz. Some might call that a success, but pitting those numbers against its competitors, that's merely half of the PS3 increase, and a fraction of the Wii increase.
When staring these numbers down, we tried to think up some reasons for this phenomenon. After all, we expected to see great results given the 360 price cuts in 2009, as well as the release of Activision's incredibly successful Modern Warfare 2. What we learned, though, is that it makes perfect sense the 360 may be under-performing this year.
First, the HD-DVD lost the Format Wars, meaning plausible lost sales from customers who would be buying it for an all-in-one entertainment platform like the PS3 with Blu-ray. While Modern Warfare 2 set the record for the largest entertainment release in history, that was across 3 platforms, most of which were previously owned. But, an unfortunate side-effect for Microsoft was the mass exodus of competition for the Holiday quarter from other publishers. Titles like Splinter Cell: Conviction, Bioshock 2, and a number of others pushed their launches back to Q1 and Q2 of 2010, for a number of reasons (one of which most certainly was the intimidation that MW2 hype had on the industry).
So is it all that unlikely the Twitter buzz could reflect a poor overall 2009 holiday season for Microsoft's Xbox division? We're not so sure...
There may be another explanation lurking in the background, though... Project Natal. Is it possible that would-be 360 buyers are holding out for Microsoft's "Wii Killer"? Absolutely. But we'll keep conjecture to a minimum.
4] Game Successes Also Surprising!
Not so surprising is the spike in buzz surrounding games like Naughty Dog's Uncharted 2, Wii Fit, Activision's DJ Hero, and Valve's Left 4 Dead 2. More surprising, though, was the relatively small increase in Modern Warfare 2 tweets. Though, upon further consideration, that actually makes sense; with such a huge launch, the majority of players who wanted Modern Warfare 2 already bought it.
What really struck us as odd was the lack of Halo 3: ODST from the top charts. Granted, they too had a well-hyped release like MW2; though, MW2 is still on the top charts. Could this be a sign that Microsoft's Halo franchise is getting long in the tooth? Or, that the Halo players are simply not tweeteing, as they may have a slightly younger demographic when compared to Call of Duty?
We want to stress that these numbers are based purely on tweets, with limited contextual analysis taken into account. They are worldwide figures, with as much spam / bot filtering performed as possible. We offer this editorial purely as a hypothesis. It would not be surprising when the NPD Group publishes their 2009 holiday sales figures we see similar trending.
It's this real-time trending that social media provides that we at Aggregame believe is a valuable market indicator to all interested parties, and moving into this new decade cannot be ignored... Unless of course we find sales data the exact opposite, in which case we'll have egg on our face =).