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Gaming fans in the United States spent $3.4 billion on video game software, hardware, and accessories in December, according to industry-tracking firm The NPD Group. That is up 2 percent year-over-year. The increase was due primarily to accessories and game-card sales.

“Gains in accessories and game-card spending offset declines in hardware and software spend,”   This is the highest total tracked consumer spend for a December month since December 2015.”

Hardware and software, however, were down. But that didn’t stop Super Smash Bros. Ultimate from having a record debut in the United States. We’ll get to the games, but first let’s break down the month.

Here are results from December 2018

  • Total: $3.415 billion (up 2 percent from $3.338 billion in December 2017)
  • Hardware: $1.168 billion (down 8 percent from $1.272 billion)
  • PC and console software: $1.237 billion (down 3 percent from $1.281 billion)
  • Accessories and game cards: $1.01 billion (up 29 percent from $785 million)

You can also see the results from all of 2018 in our story covering the year as a whole. This includes a look at hardware numbers and the top 20 best-selling games of the year.


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Let’s do the software charts.

The best-selling games of December 2018 in the U.S.

NPD tracks physical sales at retailers, but it also gets digital data directly from publishers. But not every company participates. For example, Nintendo doesn’t share its first-party sales, and Activision Blizzard does not provide its sales.

These charts are sorted by dollar sales — not number of units sold. 

  1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  2. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4**
  3. Red Dead Redemption II
  4.  Battlefield V**
  5. NBA 2K19
  6. Mario Kart 8*
  7. Madden NFL 19**
  8. Super Mario Party*
  9. Pokemon: Lets Go Pikachu*
  10. Marvel’s Spider-Man
  11. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
  12. Pokemon: Lets Go Eevee*
  13. Super Mario Odyssey*
  14. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild*
  15. Just Cause 4
  16. FIFA 19
  17. Grand Theft Auto V
  18. Minecraft
  19. Spyro Reignited Trilogy**
  20. Fallout 76*


December was a big month for Nintendo. Seven of the top 20 games are exclusive to Nintendo systems, which is significantly more than any other publisher. Every Nintendo game is benefiting from the Switch’s success. Mario Kart 8, for example, finished 2018 as the second best-selling racer ever behind only Mario Kart Wii.

Nintendo generated more revenue than any other game publisher for the first time since 2009. That doesn’t include in-game spending, though.

But let’s get real. December is really all about one game for Nintendo, and you know what it is.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is already a blockbuster hit. It is the top-selling game of December and the No. 5 best-selling game for all of 2018. What’s stunning about this is that Nintendo’s games do not include digital sales on this chart. Call of Duty, Red Dead, and Spider-Man all do — at least on consoles.

“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the best-selling game of December 2018 and the fifth best-selling game of 2018, despite digital sales not currently being tracked by The NPD Group,” Piscatella said. “Packaged software launch month dollar sales of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate exceeded those of the previous best in franchise history, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, by over 70 percent.”

But Smash isn’t just a success by franchise standards. It is the fastest-selling console exclusive game ever tracked by the NPD.

“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate set a new launch-month dollar sales record for a platform exclusive in Video Game history,” said Piscatella. “[It exceeded] the launch month dollar sales of 2010’s Halo: Reach.”

Red Dead Redemption II, Black Ops 4, and NBA

Red Dead’s sales are also still in a category of their own. It was the best-selling game of all of 2018.

Call of Duty, meanwhile, also continues to chug along like a freight train.

“Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is the third best-selling game of December,” said Piscatella. “And it finishes the year as the second best-selling title of 2018. 2018 marks the tenth consecutive year that Call of Duty is the best-selling video game franchise of the year.”

NBA 2K19 just hit its third consecutive year as the top-selling sports game. I believe we can start referring to this as a dynasty for Take-Two and 2K Sports in its fight with EA.

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