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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Adventures In Misleading Graphs

Oh noes! The Wii sky is falling! At least you would think so according to this graph.

Why, according to this, only 6% of Wii owners ACTIVELY use their Wii! That's hilarious! More people actively use their Gamecube than the Wii! See, the Wii is a fad after all. Cut and dried, right?

Take a look at the top number on the graph. Only 11% of 360 owners actively use their 360 and only 10% of PS3 owners actively use their PS3. Now, let's do a little math.

There are 50 million Wii owners. 6% of that number is 3 million.

There are 30 million 360 owners. 11% of that number is 3.3 million.

There are 20 million PS3 owners. 10% of that number is 2 million.

In other words, almost the same amount across the board use their system regularly. The gap in percentages is not that great, but the graph (and the way people are reading it) makes it look like "OMG A HUEGE GAP!"

Here's another graph that, surprisingly, isn't getting as much publicity.

In this graph, we see another side of the issue. We notice that the PS2 and 360 get about 22 minutes of use a month, and right behind that is the Wii at about 18 minutes. The Wii has more female users than male users (an underserved group), and the 360 has more male users than female users. Everyone is so quick to call graphs like this the end of Nintendo's dominance, but the reality is the only reason that the 360 looks like it's doing so well is because of all the male users. Nintendo can always lure back the male audience, and will do exactly that with Galaxy 2 and Metroid Other M. Microsoft is going to have much more difficulty sliding from male to female, and that's the real story of these graphs.

However, follow the graph. Just to the right of the Wii, we see the PS3 clocking in with fewer minutes per use by both genders. In fact, the PS3 has less than half the usage of the 360 and just a little more than half the usage of the Wii. Put another way, the system that supposedly appeals to the "rabid, hard-core players" barely gets touched.

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This is the kind of stuff that bothers me. I know I said I wasn't going to jump back into the console wars, but this sticks in my craw. If you're going to read a graph, don't just look for what interests you. Look deeper. The real story here is the gender disparity, which has to bother Microsoft and undoubtedly also concerns Nintendo, though not to the same degree. And while the Wii doesn't get as much use on a percentage basis, the same amount of regular users hasn't really changed. It's only a couple of percentage points behind the 360 and PS3, and the amount of minutes spent is actually comparable to those other systems as well.