Video game sales fell for the third straight month in May. Even though the industry can’t beat the extraordinary numbers it turned out a year ago, it’s not quite time to panic. The recession is a drag, but the blockbusters for this year are expected in the second half, whereas a few huge titles debuted in the spring a year ago.
Overall U.S. video game hardware, software and peripheral sales fell 23 percent in May to $863.3 million from $1.12 billion a year ago, according to market researcher NPD Group.
Hardware was down 30 percent to $302.5 million from $433 million. Software fell 17 percent to $448.9 million from $540 million a year ago. Peripherals fell 25 percent to $112 million from $149.7 million a year ago.
The Wii remained the top selling console, but sales were down dramatically from a year ago. Nintendo sold 289,500 consoles in the U.S. in May. Microsoft sold 175,000 Xbox 360s, up 22 percent from a year ago, while Sony sold 131,000 PlayStation 3 and 117,000 PlayStation 2 consoles.
Nintendo sold 633,500 handheld DSi and DS Lite units in May, thanks to the launch of the improved DSi in March. Sony sold 100,400 PlayStation Portables. It’s surprising that the DSi and its accompanying software sales weren’t enough to overcome the numbers from a year ago. On the other hand, last year’s numbers benefited from the huge launches of Grand Theft Auto IV, Mario Kart for the Wii, and Wii Fit.
May marks the first month that industry sales have dipped below $1 billion since August 2007, said Anita Frazier, an analyst at NPD. She noted that almost every category dropped, with unit sales declining less than dollar sales. Average retail prices dropped for almost all categories.
Two big sellers in May included THQ’s Ultimate Fighting Championship and Electronic Arts’ EA Sports Active bundle for the Wii. Sony also did well with InFamous for the PS 3. The top 10 games sold 2.6 million units in May, versus 3.7 million for the top 10 a year ago.
In June, big titles coming include the Sims 3, Prototype, Red Faction, Virtua Tennis, Ghostbusters, Transformers and Tiger Woods just to name a few.