Sony stated in an earnings call that PS5 shipments totaled only 11.5 million units in the last fiscal year (2Q21 to 1Q22), missing the target of 14.8 million units. Increasing PS5 game console production will be the company’s main task for now and sales are expected to rise to 18 million units this fiscal year. In addition, Sony also stated that it will strengthen live broadcast services and extend game services to other devices, as well as step up its VR business.
PS5 sales will continue to grow in 2022 but market instability remains
Although Sony had high expectations going into the launch of the PS5 and market reception was good, the PS5’s final sales volume was stifled by production hamstrung as a result of component shortages. Therefore, Sony specifically mentioned in the Business Segment Briefings, comparing US retailer events sold PS4 to the PS5, the PS4 sold an average of 6 units per minute, while the PS5 now sells approximately 1,000 units per minute, demonstrating the strong market demand for PS5.
At the beginning of the PS5 release, there were reports of an insufficient supply of components. When the PS5 was released at the end of 2020, it had been in production for several months and accumulated a certain amount of inventory. Even if production capacity was in short supply when the console was released, Sony could still meet some market demand in the first year with its inventory and then increase production capacity in 2021 to make up the difference. However, in 2021, semiconductor production capacity was also in short supply. Not only game console products, but numerous other products experienced a shortage of components. Naturally, Sony was unable to further increase the supply of PS5 consoles, resulting in PS5 sales coming in lower than originally expected. Sales even declined in 1Q22. As the imbalance between supply and demand of semiconductors gradually eases in 2022, Sony predicts that PS5 production will begin to increase to fulfill market demand and announced a sales target for this fiscal year of 18 million units.
Even so, there remain many uncertainties in 2022. First of all, although pandemic lockdowns in China have yet to directly affect the assembly and production of game consoles in Shandong, the risk of potential fallout still exists given the uncertainty of pandemic development. Secondly, demand from the overall consumer market may be exhausted in 2022. This is due to unfavorable factors such as inflation, wars, pandemics, and rising energy prices. Disposable income in 2022 is forecast to shrink as a result and force consumers to give up some non-essentials or delay purchases. So this may cause consumers to delay replacing their current console with a PS5. A combination of the original dearth of PS5 supply and the impact of the scalper market seriously depleted the stock of products on the market. Some consumers who were eager to enjoy new console games may have switched over to buying an Xbox Series X/S first which may contribute to PS5’s 2022 annual sales volume falling short of Sony’s estimate. TrendForce expects that volume will only reach 14.34 million units. Even if this forecast references the range of Sony’s fiscal year (2Q22 to 1Q23), estimated sales volume will only increase to 16 million units.
Sales of gaming consoles underwent palpable growth in 1H21 thanks to the release of new consoles as well as demand that had previously been deferred in 2020 due to material shortages. Moving into 2H21, however, disruptions in logistics/transportation and the further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic led to less-than-expected sales volumes during the holiday season, estimated in total annual sales of 51.257 million consoles for the whole 2021. While the Nintendo Switch remained the market leader with sales of 26.19 million units, about 14.31 million units of the Sony PS5 were sold, compared to 8.14 million units of the Microsoft Xbox Series X|S.
As the aforementioned issues related to the pandemic, logistics, and shortages gradually become resolved, TrendForce expects gaming console sales for 2022 to reach 57.94 million units, a 13% YoY increase. Although the Switch will likely retain its market leadership, sales will hold flat and begin to show signs of decline, as the console enters its fifth year. TrendForce expects Nintendo to release a refreshed version of the Switch console in early 2023 in response to gradually declining sales.
After expanding the PS5 user base, Sony is expected to make a heavy push for its next-gen VR products, the PS VR 2, which will likely be released at the end of 2022. At the same time, Sony will continue to strengthen the development of both games with VR content and VR-related accessories, which can further improve the gaming experience of PS VR users. Microsoft, on the other hand, has placed an emphasis on not only its Xbox Cloud Gaming streaming service, but also the acquisition of game development studios to increase its exclusive game titles, attract consumers, and weaken its competitors. Hence, Microsoft may potentially release its own affordably priced game streaming boxes this year to be used in conjunction with cloud-based game streaming services. However, due to the nature of Xbox Cloud Gaming as a cross-platform service compatible with, among other devices, the previous-gen Xbox One, consumers may in turn be less willing to purchase the Xbox Series X|S, thereby lowering annual sales of these consoles and widening the sales gap between the Series X|S and their competitors.
Switch-like handheld gaming consoles will continue to appear
Rising sales of the Nintendo Switch consoles have led other brands to release similar products in response. In addition, the barrier to entry in the handheld gaming console market has been significantly lowered now that Qualcomm is able to supply chips, reference designs, and dev tools. With brands now willing to cross over to this space, the market may see the emergence of multiple Switch-like handheld gaming consoles in 2022.
Unlike prevailing gaming consoles which have closed ecosystems, products such as the Steam Deck are based on open platforms that are compatible with gaming contents and streaming services available on PCs and mobile devices. As such, these handheld gaming consoles are not an absolute requirement for consuming game content, and consumers may still prefer using their existing PCs or mobile devices for such content.
As well, brands that look to release their own handheld gaming consoles will not look to compensate for reduced hardware profitability through software sales. As a result, these consoles will be priced relatively high, at an expected US$399 and up, which may negatively affect consumers’ willingness to purchase them. Even if certain brands make an attempt at handheld gaming console production, sales of these consoles are expected to remain mediocre, without making much of an impact on the current gaming console market.
TrendForce’s latest investigations find considerable discrepancy between prices for graphics DRAM products in the contract market and in the spot market. Quotes for graphics DRAM products continue to rise in the contract market as the severe undersupply situation persists. Furthermore, the supply fulfillment rates for orders from some medium- and small-size clients have been hovering around 30%. This undersupply situation is expected to persist through 3Q21, during which graphics DRAM contract prices are expected to rise by 8-13% QoQ. Regarding the spot market, on the other hand, the value of ETH experienced continued uptrend from the start of 2021 until May, thereby driving up the demand for graphics cards, regardless of them belonging to the newer or older series. At the height of the graphics card boom, spot prices of graphics DRAM products were up to 200% higher than contract prices. Demand from miners for graphics cards are expected to be relatively muted before cryptocurrencies return to their previous bullish trends, and the gap between the spot and contract prices of graphics DRAM products will likely narrow in 3Q21 as a result.
TrendForce expects four key factors to continue driving up graphics DRAM prices in the contract market. First of all, demand in the PC market remains high, particularly for gaming products. Secondly, DRAM suppliers’ production capacities allocated to most clients are constrained by the fact that Nvidia bundles its GPUs with graphics DRAM, meaning DRAM suppliers have prioritized capacity allocation to Nvidia as opposed to smaller clients. Thirdly, both the Xbox Series X and PS5 are equipped with GDDR6 16Gb chips, which is different from GDDR6 8Gb chips. As the two chips are non-interchangeable, once DRAM suppliers commit their production capacities for one, they can no longer produce the other using the same batch of wafers. Finally, since there has been a resurgence of server DRAM orders, DRAM suppliers are still prioritizing the production of these products as they are a mainstream market product. As various products each compete over limited DRAM production capacities, graphics DRAM contract prices are expected to undergo an increase going forward. In particular, medium- and small-size OEMs/ODMs may likely face double-digit percentages increases.
Sharp drop in values of cryptocurrencies has caused spot prices of GDDR5 and GDDR6 products to fall
Regarding the spot market, although spot prices for GDDR6 products has been undergoing a slight drop since May, they are still nearly 100% higher than the average contract prices. Conversely, there is almost no difference between spot and contract prices for GDDR5 products. Looking at the reasons behind the slide in spot prices of graphics DRAM products, a sharp drop in the values of cryptocurrencies is the most significant contributor apart from the excessively large difference between spot and contract prices. The recent bearish movement of cryptocurrencies has resulted in a sharp drop in incentives for miners. In turn, this has led to a corresponding drop for older graphics (such as the Nvidia GTX 1660, which features GDDR5 DRAM), which have no other sources of demand. GDDR5 prices hence entered a significant decline. With regards to newer graphics cards, however, there is still a baseline level of demand for them thanks to purchases by gamers. Furthermore, these newer graphics cards, much like the new generation of game consoles, feature GDDR6 DRAM. Therefore, due to the current demand for GDDR6 products, their price drop in the spot market is lower compared to GDDR5 products.
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