November gave us the PlayStation 4 Pro, the PlayStation VR, and the NES Classic Edition, but spending is still down.
The video game industry generated $1.97 billion in revenues in the United States in November, according to industry-tracking firm The NPD Group. That’s down an enormous 24 percent year-over-year from $2.6 billion as consumers didn’t have the software options last month that they had in November 2015 (despite an abundance of games on the market). Spending on hardware and accessories were also down.
November 2016 results
NPD’s data tracks game sales at physical retailers and some online stores in the U.S. These sales figures include data from the Xbox Game Store, the PlayStation Game Store, and Steam, but only certain publishers share their results with the NPD (you won’t find Blizzard Entertainment’s Battle.net store, for starters). This makes these numbers a snapshot of a larger industry that is far more dynamic.
- Hardware November 2016: $723.8 million (down 35 percent) November 2015: $1.12 billion
- Console software November 2016: $955.2 million (down 18 percent) November 2015: $1.17 billion
- PC software November 2016: $27.5 million (down 28 percent) November 2015: $38.1 million
- Accessories November 2016: $259.8 million (down 6 percent) November 2015: $277.1 million
“The year-on-year software revenue decline was driven by the strong comparison to last November’s top 3 titles,” NPD analyst Sam Naji explained in a statement. “Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Fallout 4, and Star Wars: Battlefront, which were all full-priced console new releases. This month’s top three games were Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Battlefield 1, and Pokémon: Sun. Battlefield 1 launched in October, and Pokémon: Sun launched at a lower [price] than last November’s console games. As all titles outside of the top three grew a combined 12 percent vs. year ago, it is the top three title grouping that drove the year-on-year decline.”
As for hardware, less expensive consoles mean that revenues from Xbox One and PlayStation 4 sales continues to decline rapidly.
“Total hardware spending in November declined 35 percent compared to year ago as growth in portable hardware sales was offset by declines in console hardware spending, particularly on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One,” said Naji.
That’s probably going to continue as Microsoft and Sony keep discounting their consoles through the holidays to compete with each another.
Here are the top 10 best-selling games of the month.
Here is the top 10 for the four-week period running from October 30 through November 26. It includes physical sales as well as some digital sales.
- Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
- Battlefield 1
- Pokémon Sun*
- Pokémon Moon*
- Titanfall 2
- NBA 2K17
- Madden NFL 17
- Watch Dogs 2
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim*
- FIFA 17
*No digital sales counted for this game.
Pokémon was the big winner in November.
“Pokémon Sun and Pokémon: Moon had the strongest launch in the history of the franchise, selling 8 percent more units than the previous best-selling combo of Pokémon: White and Pokémon: Black despite having 19 fewer days in market during the month,” said Naji.
After Pokémon Go hit mobile in the summer and reenergized that fan base, many dormant Poképlayers went out and bought 3DS handhelds specifically to purchase Sun and Moon. Nintendo even confirmed that it was its fastest-selling game ever in the franchise’s near 20-year history, and now the NPD is illustrating just how huge a spike Pikachu is seeing.
That helped 3DS sales overall.
“Nintendo 3DS experienced its highest monthly physical software spending in the history of the platform,” said Naji. “They were 1 percent higher than the previous high in December 2014.”
The story isn’t all about pocket monsters. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare also launched in November, and it would top the list if you don’t combine Pokémon Sun and Moon into one game. Activision’s sci-fi military shooter likely got a boost in terms of its revenues thanks to Activision bundling Modern Warfare Remastered in with a more expensive collector’s edition version of Infinite Warfare.
But despite that, Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Pokémon represent a decline from the top three in 2015.
“Software spending in November 2016 declined by 19 percent compared to this time last year,” said Naji. “The decline can be fully attributed to the top 3 selling games which, combined, sold 43 percent less than the top 3 games from last November. Combined spending across all other titles grew 12 percent in November compared with a year ago.”
Finally, Titanfall 2 had a strong second month. It got strong reviews when it debuted late in October, and it went on to finish No. 5 on the November top 10. That’s after landing at No. 9 on the October chart. This suggests that this shooter may have legs thanks to its excellent word-of-mouth and publisher Electronic Arts stepping in to quickly discount it down to as little as $30.
PlayStation 4 was the top-selling console of the month. Sony debuted the PS4 Pro at $400, and that helped the system get its first win over Xbox One since June. But both Microsoft and Sony continue to see strong interest in their platforms even if the average sales price of each box continues to fall.
“The PlayStation 4 was the top-selling hardware system in the month, driven by the PS4 Slim System 500GB Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Bundle,” said Naji. “This SKU accounted for 30 percent of all hardware units sold.”
Nintendo also continued to see a surge in sales for its 3DS handheld as Pokémon Sun and Moon launched to huge numbers.
“Unit sales of 3DS hardware grew 59 percent versus November a year ago, the sixth straight month of year-on-year growth,” according to the NPD analyst.
The NES Classic Edition also sold 196,000 units in its debut month.
The PlayStation VR couldn’t help the accessory-spending category. Interactive-gaming toys like Skylanders and Amiibo are losing momentum, and that’s damaging revenues.
“Total accessory spending, including PlayStation VR headsets sold through retail, declined by 6 percent versus November 2015 driven by a 49 percent decline in interactive-gaming toys,” said Naji. “All interactive-gaming toys franchises experienced declines in the month compared to November 2015. Lego Dimensions is the current market leader in the segment with 38 revenue share in November.”
Finally, spending on gamespads was also down year-over-year.
“While spending across gamepads was down overall, sales of the Microsoft Xbox Elite Wireless Controller grew 46 percent in November versus the prior year,” said Naji. “The Sony DualShock 4 was the month’s No. 1 selling gamepad overall.”