U.S. retail video game sales were only slightly up from a year ago, growing 0.4 percent to $3 billion this year, according to market researcher NPD Group. Even though growth wasn’t huge, software sales were up 15 percent and the industry will probably greet the report with some relief because sales didn’t shrink during one of the most critical sales months of the year.
Roughly 40 percent of game sales occur in November and December, in a typical year. The November sales follow a 1 percent growth in October, a 6 percent drop in September, a 23 percent drop in August, a 26 percent drop in July and a 10 percent drop in June, NPD reported.
Not surprisingly, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 took the top sales figure, with sales 7 percent above Call of Duty Black Ops a year ago, said Anita Frazier, an analyst at NPD.
Total video game hardware, software, and accessory sales at retail stores were $3.0 billion in November, up 0.4 percent from $2.99 billion a year ago. Overall console video game sales (excluding PC games) were $2.93 billion, down 0.5 percent from $2.94 billion a year ago. Sales were about three times as much as sales in October. Such growth from October to November is typical.
Game hardware sales were $982.4 million, down 9 percent from $$1.08 billion a year ago. Game software sales were $1.67 billion, up 15 percent from $1.45 billion a year ago. Accessory sales, which in earlier months this year were up thanks to strong sales of Microsoft’s Kinect motion-sensing system, were $273.8 million, down 34 percent from $414.4 million a year ago. Kinect and Sony’s PlayStation Move launched a year ago, generating huge accessory sales last year.
If you throw in the sales of PC, console and portable games, the total is $.1.74 billion, up 16 percent from $1.5 million a year ago.
Frazier said that a decline in the average retail price in all categories with the exception of portable hardware held overall sales down. She expects that December sales will be flat to down 3 percent.
The bright spots of the month were some of the big new releases such as Activision Blizzard’s Modern Warfare 3, which was the top-selling title of the month. That was followed by The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim from Bethesda Softworks, Battlefield 3 from Electronic Arts (the top seller in October), Assassin’s Creed Revelations from Ubisoft, Just Dance 3 from Ubisoft, Madden NFL 12 from EA, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception from Sony, Saint’s Row the Third from THQ, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword from Nintendo, Batman: Arkham City from Warner Bros.
“This is the fourth consecutive month in which the Xbox 360 has been the top selling hardware system,” Frazier said. “The gap between 360 sales and sales of the next best selling platform was the largest we’ve seen since December 2008 when the Nintendo DS was the top selling system.”
November 2011 was the best on record, topping November 2008, which was the previous record. Skyrim sold abut 500,000 units, topping the previous title, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, by five-fold. Batman is also outpacing sales of its predecessor. Battlefield 3 is also the best-selling Battlefield game of all time now.
Nintendo’s Super Mario 3D Land for the Nintendo 3DS sold more than 625,000 units, making it the fastest-selling portable Super Mario title in U.S. history. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword sold more than 600,000 units in the first week of sales. Nintendo also said the Wii has now sold 37.7 million units in the U.S. The 3DS handheld has sold 2.37 million units, after eight montsh on the market.
Sony said that hardware sales were up 70 percent from a year ago and software sales were up 30 percent. Microsoft said that Xbox 360 hardware sales hit 1.7 million units in November, up 23 percent from a year ago. In the month, Microsoft said it had 49 percent of the market share and its sales were more than double the second-place company. Microsoft said it sold 960,000 Xbox 360s in the week of Black Friday, including 800,000 sold in one 24-hour period. It also said it sold 750,000 Kinect units during the week of Black Friday.
Ubisoft was clearly one of the winners with two games in the top five games. Sales of Assassin’s Creed Revelations are up over last year’s title, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, by 10 percent. Ubisoft’s Just Dance 3 was the No. 1 game for the Wii in November.
Don't let cyber attacks kill your game! Join GamesBeat's Dean Takahashi for a free webinar on April 18 that will explore the DDoS risks facing the game industry. Sign up here.