While game publishers look to retail sales figures to gauge the success of the holiday season, let's take a look at how our favourite games and consoles performed in the shady back-alleys of eBay's 2009 holiday grey market.
It's that time of year again. Time to take a data dive into the heart of eBay US to gauge how well the video game grey market fared during the holiday season. Rather than charting the sales numbers of a specific console, as I've done for the past three years with the Nintendo Wii, this year I'm presenting a broader overview of the eBay grey market, charting the sales for all major gaming platforms during the 30-day period beginning November 26th and ending on Christmas Day. I've compiled data on console sales, game listings, and some of the top-items passing through the popular auction website. If you want to know which platforms thrived, which handheld completely tanked, and the most successful video game-related item on eBay, then read on.
The table below presents a general overview of the sales performance of the major consoles and handheld systems during the month leading up to Christmas. I've listed the total sales in US dollars, the number of items sold, the average selling price, and the sell-through percentage, which indicates the success of auctions posted for each specific product. Check out the table, and then we'll break things out by console.
The PlayStation 3 in all its varied incarnations sold the fewest number of consoles out of the big three this year, but that shouldn't be taken as a measure of the system's success. Indeed, if you look at the sell-through percentage, the PS3 comes out on top. That means there were less people selling, but plenty willing to buy. Since the launch of the PlayStation Slim earlier this year, Sony has maintained a steady supply of the consoles to retail outlets, and the abundance of available consoles equates less people looking for them on eBay.
From a seller's point of view, that high sell-through figure means the PlayStation 3 comes out on top in terms of sales potential.
The highest price PlayStation 3 auctions mainly consisted of limited edition consoles, including the Final Fantasy XIII bundle recently released in Japan.
The Xbox 360 brought in the most money of any console this holiday season, mainly due to its average price being slightly higher than the Nintendo Wii, which pushed more units overall. The Microsoft console's sell-through numbers were only slightly lower than the PlayStation 3. Between that figure and the larger number of consoles put up for sales, it seems like putting a new 360 up for sales is seen as a relatively safe bet among sellers.
The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Xbox 360 bundle made up a large portion of the Xbox 360 sales during the period, with 322 of the consoles representing $US126,924 worth of sales. The Infinity Ward-flavoured bundle went for as high as $US900.
eBay sellers continue the love affair with the Wii that started with the console's 2006 holiday debut. The Wii was the top seller of the big three in terms of units sold, but the slightly lower sell-through rate indicates that there might have been a few too many up for sale.
Also note that the average price for the Wii was $US190, which is below the suggested retail price. Either sellers were taking advantage of discounts and sales, or they weren't making very much in the way of profits.
The Nintendo DS managed to outsell the newer, more advanced DSi this holiday season, pushing more than 2000 units beyond what Nintendo's latest North American handheld sold. A failure for the DSi? Not exactly. Take a look at the sell-through percentage and you'll see that the DSi has the largest number of any game console. eBayers wanted to buy them, but the sellers just weren't selling.
The PSP sold strong on eBay this holiday, with the PSP-1000, 2000, and 3000 generating more money than any other handheld, though the DS trumped them with sheer numbers.
The top selling PSP was a used red God of War limited edition PSP, which went for $US1009.
Unfortunately, the PSPgo didn't fare nearly as well as its older brother. In fact, Sony's UMD-less alternative to the regular PSP performed abysmally, pushing only 250 units. It's not a factor of demand behind too high for supply either - the sell-through rate of 76.47 per cent indicates that people simply weren't buying it.
If you look very closely, you'll notice that both graphs do indeed contain the PSPgo. You might need to zoom in.
Games With Legs
Now let's take a look at the games that traded this holiday season. This time around I took the top ten titles sorted by number of auctions, to see which ones were moving the most.
Certainly not a surprising list. Modern Warfare 2 seems to be showing up at the top of any list as far as sales are concerned these days, and Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort are two of the titles meant to showcase what the Wii can do, so those both sold in droves. World at War traded heavily, perhaps due to people swapping out the old for the new, and the Pure / Lego Batman combo disc packed inside select Xbox 360 consoles over the holiday season scores a tidy profit for those who received it for free.
And Uncharted 2 making the list makes sense, but what about the extremely more expensive edition?
Forty-five of the ultra-rare Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Fortune Hunter Edition made it onto eBay during the 30 days leading up to Christmas, but it seems some sellers set their hopes too high. Of the 45, only 24 sold, giving the package a 53.33 per cent sell-through rate. The average price for the package was $US891.52, with one going for as high as $US1136.
What People Look For In An Online Video Game Auction
Selling on eBay isn't just a matter of having a strong product, but being aware of what your prospective buyers are searching for and using search terms accordingly. Let's see if this list of the top 10 search terms used in both the games and system category can help.
Top 10 eBay Search Terms For Games And Consoles
The console search terms are pretty much common sense. Let's face it - if you're selling an Xbox 360 and you forget to include Xbox 360 in the title, there's something wrong with you. As far as game search terms go, folks initially seem to be going for specific games, but then desperation sets in. You have to be pretty desperate in order to type "Wii games" into an eBay search page.
Wii Remotes Are The New Hotcakes
Finally we come to the hottest selling video game item of the holiday season. With 8359 items sold between November 26 and December 25, the Nintendo Wii remote is the hottest selling gaming item this holiday season, generating more than $US202,000 for sellers over the course of one month. The remote, bundled with a nunchuck, a skin, and a wrist-strap is sold as a "Nintendo Wii Remote+Nunchuck Game Controller+Skin 4 SET", though counting the wrist strap as an actual item is a bit shaky. Still, with The New Super Mario Bros. Wii making four-player gaming fun on the Wii, its no wonder the controllers are flying off the shelves, onto resellers' shelves, and then back off of the shelves again.
Another Year Goes By
And there you have the 2009 holiday season, summed up in 30 days of eBay data. A look into what happens to games and consoles once they pass from retail into the hands of the wheelers and dealers that populate the world's largest online marketplace. Bids were sniped, Buy It Now items were pounced, and in the end, everybody got feedback. A++++! Would research again!
Methodology Statistics in the 2009 Grey Market Report were gathered using eBay market research tool Terapeak. Data was drawn for a 30 day period starting on November 26 and ending on December 25. Console statistics were pulled directly from the Video Games / Systems subcategory to allow for mis-filed system listings, while game data was puled directly from the Video Game / Games subcategory. Console searches were limited to items in New condition, with a range of $US100 to $US1000 used to ferret out accessories. Certain terms were omitted from the search in order to allow for a more accurate reporting of console pricing, including "games", "extras", "accessories", "lot" and others on a case-by-case basis - for instance, "Wii Fit" was omitted from search terms for the Wii in order to make sure systems bundled with Wii Fit did not influence the pricing data.