Correction: This story originally credited the Metal Gear Solid V PS4 bundle for holding back its sales on the software chart, but that package wasn’t available in the U.S. Therefore it would have no impact on the data in this story. I apologize for and have corrected the error.
Game revenues took a beating last month as gamers spent less on hardware, but it’s likely that many consumers are just waiting for those hot holiday deals at this point.
Customers spent $1.01 billion on new games and hardware at United States retailers in September, according to industry-tracking firm The NPD Group. That’s down 9 percent from $1.10 billion last year. Both hardware and software suffered some erosion, and only accessories (which includes interactive toys like Amiibo and Skylanders) grew.
Specifically, hardware sales were down 27 percent from $431.2 million to $313.5 million. Game sales dropped 3 percent from $480.6 million to $465.6 million. Both hardware and software were going to have a tough comparison as Activision released Destiny during September 2014, and that game is widely recognized with convincing a large number of people to upgrade to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
But it’s not all bad news. Hardware sales are trending up when you look at the month-over-month numbers, according to NPD analyst Liam Callahan.
“The majority of hardware platforms increased their sales from August 2015 to September 2015 when comparing sales on a per week basis,” said Callahan. “All eighth generation consoles [which includes PS4, Xbox One, and Wii U] experienced double-digit growth when comparing sales on a per-week basis.”
Now, before we get into the software chart, a warning: the NPD numbers only track new games sold at U.S. retailers. That means no digital and no used games. Also, nothing from the huge mobile market. With all that in mind, it’s best to treat all of this data as an insightful glimpse into a much more dynamic ecosystem.
- NBA 2K16 (PS4, Xbox One, 360, PS3)
- Madden NFL 16 (PS4, Xbox One, 360, PS3)
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS4, Xbox One, PS3, 360)
- FIFA 16 (PS4, Xbox One, 360, PS3)
- Destiny: The Taken King (Xbox One, PS4, 360, PS3)
- Super Mario Maker (Wii U)
- Disney Infinity 3.0 (360, Wii U, Xbox One, PS4, PS3)
- Mad Max (PS4, Xbox One)
- NHL 16 (Xbox One, PS4, 360, PS3)
- Minecraft (360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4)
Well, September sure was interesting.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was easily the biggest release in terms of hype, but it couldn’t outsell Madden NFL 16 or NBA 2K16. This is especially odd considering Madden debuted in August and NBA 2K16 didn’t release until the end of September as opposed to Metal Gear’s September 1 launch date.
You might think that the Metal Gear Solid V bundle had a big effect on its sales, since pack-in games don’t count on the above chart, but that deal was only available in the U.K. It’s possible that NBA 2K16 and Madden are simply that popular.
Other big September releases include Destiny: The Taken King, FIFA 16, Super Mario Maker, Mad Max, and NHL 16.
The soccer and hockey games also had strong debut months at No. 4 and No. 9, respectively. FIFA even managed to outsell Destiny — although, again, it’s possible that bundles and digital are affecting those results.
Super Mario Maker once again shows that power of a first-party Nintendo game. The Wii U release is the only single-platform exclusive to make the top 10, which is a rare feat these days.
We’ve asked the hardware manufacturers for the data about their systems, and most declined to provide anything specific. But it’s obvious, according to the NPD, that Xbox One and PS4 are both still selling extraordinarily well.
“After 23 months on the market, combined PS4 and Xbox One sales are 40 percent higher than the combined 23 month totals for PS3 and 360,” said Callahan.
Even with the steep year-over-year decline, The NPD Group doesn’t sound like anyone should have cause for concern.
“September 2015 hardware sales dropped by 23 percent due to a difficult comparison to the strong sales in September 2014, which were supported by the launch of Activision’s Destiny,” said Callahan.
But the analyst did point out that, for once, it wasn’t just the Xbox 360 and PS3 that experienced big drops. Even the Xbox One and PS4 didn’t sell as well as last year.