Halo is still huge.
American consumers spent $805.9 million on new game-related software and hardware at retailers last month, according to industry-tracking firm The NPD Group. That was up 2 percent compared to $788.7 million in October 2014. Hardware and software were down, but it was accessories that ensured the industry saw what little growth it did.
The accessories category, which now includes interactive toys like Amiibo and Skylanders as well as plastic Rock Band guitars, was up 18 percent to $197 million. That’s compared to $168.2 million during the same period of last year. That buoyed software, which was down 3 percent from $349.4 million to $337.7 million, and hardware, which was essentially even year-over-year from $271.1 to $270.3 million.
But, as always, those comparisons are much more complex than they first appear. Home console sales were up 3 percent, but it was 3DS and Vita sales that dragged down the total. That’s because last October saw the release of Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, and that game moved a significant amount of portable hardware for Nintendo. And the general health of hardware sales looks even healthier if you discount the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii.
We’ll break this info down further, but first it’s important to remember that the NPD Group does not include digital downloads or used games in its reporting. It only tracks new games sold at U.S. retailers. That means mobile and a huge chunk of GameStop’s business does not contribute to this data. With that in mind, it’s best to treat this information as a snapshot of a much larger and more dynamic market.
With that out of the way, let’s dig in.
- Halo 5: Guardians (Xbox One)
- NBA 2K16 (PS4, Xbox One, 360, PS3)
- Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate (PS4, Xbox One)
- Madden NFL 16 (PS4, Xbox One, 360, PS3)
- WWE 2K16 (PS4, Xbox One, 360, PS3)
- FIFA 16 (PS4, Xbox One, 360, PS3)
- Destiny: The Taken King (PS4, Xbox ONe, 360, PS3)
- Yoshi’s Wooly World (Wii U)
- Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection (PS4)
- Rock Band 4 (Xbox One, PS4)
October was interesting.
Halo 5 was the biggest new release by far, and it delivered. It was No. 1, which is always impressive for a single-system release.
But Halo wasn’t really enough to turn October into a $1 billion month like September. That’s because, other than Halo, the remaining new releases were relatively unimpressive.
“New physical video game software sales decreased by 3 percent from October 2014,” NPD analyst Liam Callahan said in a statement. “With trends mirroring hardware as console game sales were offset by a 42 percent decline in portable game sales.”
That’s the Smash effect in play once again.
To continue the trend, all of the growth is happening on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
“[This] generation of consoles had a strong month with 62 percent growth over October 2014, while last-generation console sales dropped by 63 percent,” said Callahan. “That’s higher than the year-to-date decrease in sales of 51 percent.”
Players are fleeing the last gen. And Microsoft clearly benefited from that as it appears at least some Xbox 360 owners are jumping to the Xbox One for the new Halo.
The rest of the list’s new releases included Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Yoshi’s Wooly World, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, and Rock Band 4. Notably absent from that list is Guitar Hero Live, but Callahan has an explanation for that.
“October 2015 saw the return of two key music genre franchises: Guitar Hero and Rock Band,” he said. “Rock Band 4 ranked 10th and Guitar Hero: Live ranked 11th based on units sold. However, the ranking changes to fourth and sixth, respectively, when ranking on dollars.”
It’s definitely worth pointing out that Rock Band came out October 6 and Guitar Hero debuted October 20, and both of these franchises should continue to sell well for weeks after their launch. Considering that two-week lead for Rock Band, it’s impressive that Activision’s music game was able to essentially match its competition.
Finally, it’s worth noting that if you rank the games based on how much they sold for one platform, Wii U’s Super Mario Maker was actually the 10th highest-grossing game of the month.
The Xbox One was the top-selling console.
This isn’t too surprising other than the fact that PlayStation 4 seems to so easily win this battle each month. But Halo — and possibly Rock Band — were enough to push Microsoft’s system ahead.
“The strength of the greatest games lineup in Xbox history drove record Xbox Live usage for October and made Xbox One the best-selling console in the U.S. with 81 percent growth compared to October 2014,” Xbox marketing boss Mike Nichols said in a statement. “We saw amazing fan excitement, commercial success, and critical acclaim in October for Halo 5: Guardians, which was the best-selling game in the U.S., and other Xbox One titles launching earlier this fall, including Forza Motorsport 6, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Harmonix’s Rock Band 4, and Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.”
When we reached out to Sony for the state of PS4 sales, it provided us with the following statement.
“We are truly humbled by the success of the PlayStation 4 and look forward to celebrating with our fans at PlayStation Experience in December,” a Sony spokesperson said. “Thank you to our community for making PlayStation 4 the top selling console globally.”
That last point is true. While Xbox One outsold PS4 in October in the U.S., Sony’s system still has a huge lead — although it’s worth pointing out that last generation, when the 360 dominated, PlayStation 3 never had months where a big game would help it outsell Microsoft’s hardware.
That doesn’t speak to the weaknesses of either system, but it does say something about their strengths. PlayStation 4 is the fastest-selling system ever, yet Microsoft is capable of eking out a win every once in a while because the Xbox One is also selling well.
Finally, NPD’s Callahan provides a little more color on the state of the current generation of consoles.
“Console hardware sales increased by 3 percent over October 2014,” he said. “This was due entirely to [Xbox One and PlayStation 4] generation sales, which rose by 12 percent to offset the 66 percent decrease in hardware sales for last generation consoles.”