The Xbox One and and PlayStation 4 both sold well, but Microsoft’s latest console bested its Sony counterpart … although both are behind Nintendo’s 3DS.
Gamers spent $3.28 billion on new physical games and hardware in December, according to industry-tracking firm The NPD Group. That’s up 2 percent from $3.21 billion in 2012. As in November, hardware was where consumers were putting their money as they swooped up another $1.37 billion in new consoles. That’s up 28 percent from $1.07 billion in 2012.
Gamers and holiday shoppers were obviously drawn to retail outlets to pick up the new Xbox One and PlayStation 4 systems from Microsoft and Sony. While those new boxes sold well, the Xbox One’s $500 price and PlayStation 4’s $400 price left little for consumers to spend on games.
Software sales were down 17 percent from $1.54 billion in 2012 to $1.2 billion in 2013. Essentially, consumers are spending just a little bit more on gaming, but most of that is going into buying the new systems.
“December 2013 marks the fifth month in a row for positive combined physical game sales across hardware, software, and accessories,” NPD analyst Liam Callahan said in a statement. “Much like last month, increases in hardware and accessory spending, up 28 percent and 4 percent respectively, offset declines in software leading to a 2 percent increase over December 2012.”
For 2013 as a whole, the industry shrank by 2 percent. Consumers spent $12.97 billion, which is down from $13.27 billion in 2012. For a full look at how games performed in 2013, read our report.
Keep in mind that these NPD figures only cover new sales at physical retailers in the U.S. That means it doesn’t include used games, digital sales, or rentals. It’s a good way to understand what’s selling, but it doesn’t capture the whole picture and leaves out important market segments like mobile, massively multiplayer online games, and free-to-play PC titles.
With that in mind, let’s see what games made the top 10.
- Call of Duty: Ghosts (Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4, Wii U, PC)*
- Battlefield 4 (Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4, Wii U, PC)
- Just Dance 2014 (Wii, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, PS4)
- Madden NFL 25 (Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4)
- NBA 2K14 (Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, PC)
- Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PC
- Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox 360, PS3)
- Lego Marvel Super Heroes (Xbox 360, PS3, 3DS, Xbox One, PS4, Wii U, Vita, PC)
- FIFA 14 (Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Vita)
- Skylanders: Swap Force (Wii, 360, PS3, Wii U, 3DS, Xbox One, PS4)
*The order of the platform in parenthesis signifies which version sold best in descending order.
December was the first full month that the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were on the market in the U.S. So while software sales were down, we can start to get an idea of where consumers are spending their money.
Once again, Activision’s and Electronic Arts’ shooters top the list. Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 outsold the rest of the list, but what’s interesting is that, unlike November, the Xbox One version of both outsold the PlayStation 4 version. Surprisingly, the Madden NFL 25 sold better on Xbox One than PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4.
“For the fifth year in a row, the standard 360 version of Call of Duty was the top-selling SKU for December,” said Callahan.
The rest of the top 10 looks a lot like November. The only new game on the list is Lego Marvel Super Heroes. That pushed Disney Infinity out of the top 10. Sony Computer Entertainment’s racing sim Gran Turismo 6 for PlayStation 3, which debuted on Dec. 6, failed to make the chart.
Electronic Arts continues to have the most success on the next-gen systems. The publisher made up 30 percent of game sales on Xbox One and 40 percent on PlayStation 4, according to the NPD data.
Also, if you’re wondering why Pokémon isn’t on this list, it’s because NPD counts X and Y as two separate games.
Nintendo’s 3DS portable was the top-selling piece of hardware for December.
Xbox One outsold PlayStation 4 in December at retail in the U.S., but PlayStation 4 still has an overall lead.
“Nintendo’s 3DS topped overall hardware sales for Dec. 2013 and for 2013 as a whole,” said Callahan. “However, with its $500 price point, the Xbox One led annual hardware sales on a dollars basis.”
Microsoft sold 908,000 Xbox Ones in December. It also revealed that it sold 643,000 Xbox 360s, which puts that console ahead of PlayStation 3. Sony did not provide specific numbers. We are still awaiting comment from Nintendo.
“According to the latest NPD report, PlayStation 4 remains the cumulative leader for next-gen console sales in the U.S. since its launch on Nov. 15,” Sony spokesperson Dan Race said in a statement provided to GamesBeat. “We sold every PS4 available at retail in the U.S. and were out of stock in December due to overwhelming consumer demand.”
Earlier this month, Sony revealed it sold 4.2 million PS4s worldwide by the end of 2013.
“It’s clear that the PS4’s gaming and entertainment features are resonating with large audiences and we’re doing our best to provide additional inventory in all of the 53 countries where it’s available,” said Race.
Xbox One wasn’t exactly in plentiful supply either. Microsoft confirmed that it was also supply constrained. The console would often sell out quickly when it appeared in stores — although it did seem slightly more common than Sony’s machine.