Japanese console sales continued to slide in 2014

Revenue at lowest point in more than 20 years, with hardware at the core of the problem

The importance of mobile to the Japanese games market has been underlined by new data from Famitsu, which puts the country's console revenue for 2014 at its lowest point since 1991.

In terms of both software and hardware revenue combined, the Japanese console market was worth ¥368.55 billion in 2014, down 10 per cent year-on-year. Hardware revenue was ¥142.15 billion, and software revenue was ¥226.4 billion

The bigger picture is one of steady decline, with total revenue at its lowest point in more than 20 years. Comparing monetary values in specific currencies across such long periods of time is problematic, of course, but the trend is abundantly clear - particularly in terms of hardware sales, which were at their lowest since Famitsu started to record hardware and software revenue separately in 1997.

Even when the focus is narrowed to just the recent past the picture remains bleak, with console hardware revenue falling every year since 2006. This graph, posted to Neogaf, illustrates the point.

Software revenue is also in decline, though not to the same extent. Indeed, the top five best-selling games of the year all sold more than 2 million units, the first time that any five games have sold in such quantities in eight years. And the last of those 2 million-sellers, Yokai Watch 2: Shin Uchi, had only been available for 16 days when the data was compiled.

However, every single one of those games was a 3DS release. Nintendo's handheld represented eight of the top ten best-selling games, with the other two being for Wii U. Famitsu noted that the majority of major releases for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One only arrived at the end of the year, though, realistically, only Sony's console has any chance of altering the perception that, in Japan, the console market is effectively the Nintendo market.

This was reflected in hardware sales, with the 3DS line outselling every other piece of hardware combined - if only by a narrow margin.

The Famitsu software top ten for 2014 is below:

  • 01. [3DS] Yokai Watch 2: Ganso / Honke - 3,050,178
  • 02. [3DS] Pokemon Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire - 2,464,850
  • 03. [3DS] Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate - 2,381,177
  • 04. [3DS] Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS - 2,066,022
  • 05. [3DS] Yokai Watch 2: Shin Uchi - 2,007,327
  • 06. [3DS] Yokai Watch - 994,346
  • 07. [WIU] Mario Kart 8 - 842,053
  • 08. [3DS] Dragon Quest Monsters 2: Iru and Luka's Marvellous Mysterious Key - 748,139
  • 09. [3DS] Kirby Triple Deluxe - 687,957
  • 10. [WIU] Super Smash Bros. for Wii U - 478,366

And here's the hardware chart:

  • 1. 3DS - 3,153,045
  • 2. PSV - 1,147,936
  • 3. PS4 - 925,570
  • 4. Wii U - 604,856
  • 5. PS3 - 450,034
  • 6. One - 45,958

Thanks to Rob Fahey for assistance with translation.

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Latest comments (4)

Art C. Jones Writer / Blogger 7 years ago
There are different ways to see a performance device, one is on the screen (where honestly Nintendo games still look better than most everything on cell phones largely b/c the games get more development time) and the other is by what the device can do. Having a controller makes the 3DS worlds better than any phone in my book, there isn't a debate or discussion, but that's just me.

However, taking a step back, is performance the real goal?
Nintendo has crushed the PSVita with the 3DS just like the DS crushed the PSP. Sony's platforms were more powerful. Yet that didn't make the market go crazy for them.

I think Nintendo is smart to keep their costs lower, the market hasn't shown that a better performing device is the way to go, there are costs in the hardware and software development for the hardware that are hard to offset and there isn't evidence that the market will grow larger due to having the more powerful device.

Seems like Nintendo is playing things pretty smart based on the market conditions.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Art C. Jones on 8th January 2015 8:52pm

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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.7 years ago
Correctly stated, Art. Power was never why Nintendo did well in the first place. And the 3DS is clearing dominating all other console devices on the market (equal to them all combined). All of which are more powerful so power is obviously not the problem.

Overall, the industry was in decline since 1997 and it was only with the introduction of the DS Lite in 2006 that things turned around but even that didn't last long as the industry slide reverted back.

You could say that Nintendo and the DS Lite simply delayed the inevitable.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 7 years ago

I'd say it's much more that the handheld audience is, and has been Nintendo's. That's what people are used to buying, abd it's accepted that you buy Johnny a Gameboy. Sony's platforms are expensive comparatively, and those who desire deeper gameplay, the kind that does not lend itself to mobile pkay those games on consoles.

In short, Japan s the only place Sony has had any success, because the mobile audience is far bigger and more diverse. People have two hours on the train to kill, Western audiences, be they children or adults, on handhelds or tablets or phones are looking to kill minutes, not hours, and those looking to kill hours are perfectly served by a DS. NINTENDO's biggest issue is that kids are increasingly turning to Flappy Bird instead of Pokemon
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Show all comments (4)
I don't think blaming Nintendo is the answer here. While sales are down, its the Playstation brand that has badly fallen over.

Most of this is due to a general shrinkage in the development market (3rd-party releases) - there are less handheld and console releases now, less publishers and less developers. Just look at the number of big JRPGs that came out last year - and compare to 10 years ago.

Mobile is definitely part of the cause, but its also part of the solution - Nintendo have been worried about this pattern since 2000 (and before) - continuous increase in development costs.
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