The hardware sales figures we discuss every month are just one aspect of this generation console war between the PS3, Wii, and Xbox 360. Software, or games, are just as big a part of it. And on this score, Microsoft win big, with the Xbox having a much higher attach rate than either the Wii and PS3.
The latest NPD data showed sales in the U.S. for the month of September, and as is usual these days, the Wii dominated proceedings. The Xbox 360 had a good month after those much needed price cuts kicked in, while the PS3 again failed to live up to its potential by coming in last place.
But, as Gamasutra investigated, the software attach rate, the number of games sold per console sold tell a different story altogether. The Xbox 360 owns its competitors on this score, with the average owner having already bought 8.1 games. This compares to just 5.5 for the Wii and 5.3 for the PS3.
NPD Group analyst Anita Frazier commented:
They can be an indication of the health of a system. If a hardware system is doing gangbuster sales, then the tie ratio can go down even if there are lots of overall sales.
But those figures don’t tell the full story either, and fail to take in to account the year head start the Xbox 360 had over its rivals, being released a full 12 months before the Wii and PS3. In fact, if 2008 is taken individually, the figures show that the Xbox 360 attach rate has stalled, while the Wii and PS3 rates have increased enormously.
So what does it all mean, and is it really that important? Well yes and no. Firstly, attach rates really only matter towards the end of a console’s life because that is when we really see what percentage of those consoles have sat on the shelf unplayed since being bought, and which have been used extensively. So the figures right now are rather pointless.
But much more importantly than that, they say nothing about the quality of the experience, only focussing on the quantity. What’s to say that Xbox 360 owners have bought more games but also been disappointed by those purchases? While Wii and PS3 owners may have bought less games but been eminently more pleased with the results of their buying decisions.
To an individual gamer, these figures will mean less than nothing. They will buy the system of their choice, and then the games they fancy playing, and have fun. Simple. Attach rates are really only something which one of the console manufacturers can grab on to and shake in the faces of the other. And Microsoft is taking every opportunity to do just that.