wii u

Gamers (and their gift-giving friends and relatives) spent $3.2 billion at retail in December, according to The NPD Group. That’s down 22 percent from 2011’s $4.1 billion. Retail numbers on games for the entirety of 2012 is down that same 22 percent, from $16.99 billion in 2011 to $13.26 billion in 2012.

Financial analysis firm The NPD Group tracks retail sales for the gaming industry. These numbers don’t include digital sales (like Valve’s digital store Steam), but these figures provide a good look at how physical games are selling at brick-and-mortar stores.

December was another off month for retail-game sales. Hardware, software, and accessory sales were all down, but let’s recap software sales before we get into the specifics.


Here’s the best-selling games from December:

  1. Call of Duty: Black Ops II (360, PS3, Wii U, PC)
  2. Just Dance 4 (360, PS3, Wii U, Wii)
  3. Halo 4 (360)
  4. Assassin’s Creed III (360, PS3, Wii U, PC)
  5. Madden NFL 13 (360, PS3, Wii U, Wii, Vita)
  6. Far Cry 3 (360, PS3, PC)
  7. NBA 2K13 (360, PS3, Wii U, Wii, PSP, PC)
  8. Skylanders Giants (360, PS3, Wii U, Wii, 3DS)
  9. New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS)
  10. Fifa Soccer 13 (360, PS3, Wii U, Wii, 3DS, Vita, PSP)

“In December 2012, positive trending for many annualized franchises like Call of Duty, Skylanders, Assassin’s Creed, and FIFA, point to consumers’ increased spending on hits but that middle-tier games as well as catalog titles are suffering,” said NPD Analyst Liam Callahan. “This is evident in examining the share of December dollar sales that the top 10 titles generated, which was 46 percent in December 2012, up 12 percentage points from last December.”

We’re a top-heavy industry, at least at retail. All of the money goes where everyone expects it to go. Even in digital, we have no middle class in gaming. Sure, plenty of smaller, $15 indie games are selling. Meanwhile, the auctioneer is chopping up THQ to sell off piece-by-piece.

“A major culprit in the decline in retail sales in 2012 was the lack of new releases with 29 percent less SKUs across consoles, portables, and PCs,” said Callahan. “However, the SKUs that were released generated 8 percent more units per SKU and 11 percent more dollars per SKU.”


As for system sales, Microsoft had a huge month. The Xbox 360 was the best-selling home console for the 24th consecutive month. Microsfot sold more than 1.4 million Xbox 360s in December. That’s more than double the PlayStation 3.

The hardware sales for December (Sony hasn’t reported its figures):

  • Xbox 360: 1.4 million
  • Nintendo 3DS: 1.25 million
  • Wii: 475,000
  • Nintendo DS: 470,000
  • Wii U: 460,000

“2012 culminates a year where Xbox 360 dominated hardware sales,” said Callahan. “Despite year-over-year declines versus last December, this was the 17th month where the Xbox 360 held the top hardware position.”

Astonishingly, the Wii U sold less than the Wii did in December.

Nintendo announced that the new console sold 460,000 units in the last month of the year, while the Wii sold 475,000 systems. It’s hard to blame this on supply constraint, since most analysts believe retailers had plenty of units to sell.

Accessories and other things

The Skylanders business is still booming. Sales of character packs for Skylanders Giants doubled compared to the the original Skylanders in December 2011.

Turtle Beach is leading a rise in the sale of gaming headphones.

Finally, December was the biggest month ever for the sales of point cards for digital stores like Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and the Nintendo eShop. Overall, 2012 is the biggest year ever for the sales of those cards.