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Video game retail sales slipped in 2013 as gamers prepped for new consoles

Above: Grand Theft Auto V for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Image Credit: Rockstar Games

U.S. video games had a mixed picture in retail sales 2013, with overall industry sales dropping 2 percent for the year despite the introduction of the Sony PlayStation 4 and the Microsoft Xbox One. But don’t feel sorry for game companies, as the overall business saw growth when you count digital sales such as mobile and online games.

And If you add everything together from both NPD and SuperData’s info on digital sales, the total U.S. game market was $24.67 billion, compared to $23.97 billion a year earlier.

Overall retail sales were $12.97 billion, down 2 percent from $13.27 billion. Hardware sales were $4.26 billion, up 5 percent from $4.04 billion a year earlier. Console and portable game sales were $6.12 billion, down 9 percent from $6.71 billion a year earlier. Accessory sales were $2.6 billion, up 3 percent from $2.51 billion a year ago.

PC game sales didn’t help the picture. Overall console, portable, and PC sales were $6.34 billion, down 11 percent from $7.09 billion a year earlier.

David Dennis, spokesman for Microsoft, said in an interview that the launch of the Xbox One was “fantastic” compared to past console launches.

“There were rumors of the consoles all dying, but the numbers from us and PlayStation 4 show there is a lot of interest in the next generation,” Dennis said.

For the year, Take-Two Interactive’s Grand Theft Auto V was the top-selling game on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The other top-selling games in order were Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty: Ghosts, Electronic Arts’ Madden NFL 25, EA’s Battlefield 4, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed IV, Take-Two’s NBA 2K14, Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Ubisoft’s Just Dance 2014, Microsoft and Mojang’s Minecraft on the Xbox 360, and Disney’s Disney Infinity.

It’s interesting that Disney Infinity outsold rival Activision Blizzard’s Skylanders toy-game hybrid during 2013. On the other hand, Minecraft on the Xbox 360 outsold Disney Infinity — and this doesn’t even factor in the games PC and mobile versions.

The physical retail sales from NPD compare in interesting ways to estimates of digital sales by market researcher SuperData Research. SuperData said that U.S. digital sales (consisting of social, mobile, console and PC downloadable content, free-to-play, and subscription online revenue) was $11.7 billion, up 10 percent from $10.7 billion a year earlier.

The top online games from SuperData’s list on a worldwide basis include Tencent’s CrossFire, Tencent/Riot’s League of Legends, and Nexon’s Dungeon Fighter Online.

In the U.S., SuperData said that free-to-play online games grew 45 percent from $1.99 billion to $2.89 billion in 2013. Subscription revenues were $1.12 billion, down 19 percent from 2012. The U.S. mobile game market was $3.06 billion in 2013, up 28 percent from $2.39 billion. In December, mobile games were $317 million in December, up 16 percent from November.

The social games segment shrank 21 percent to $1.81 billion as social gamers shifted to mobile. And the downloadable content market for bot PC and console games was $2.87 billion, up 13 percent from a year earlier.

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