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Console hardware was once again difficult to come by in December, and that held back sales for an industry that continues to carry most of its momentum from the pandemic. Sales were flat or down across all categories in the United States, according to industry-tracking firm The NPD Group. But a decline isn’t surprising when so many people are still unable to find Switch systems in stores let alone Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5.

December 2021 Dollar Sales, Millions Dec 2020 Dec 2021 Change
Total Video Game Sales $7,632 $7,546 -1%
Video Game Content (Physical & Digital Full Game, DLC/MTX and Subscription consumer spending across Console, Cloud, Mobile*, Portable, PC and VR) platforms) $5,729 $5,734 0%
Video Game Hardware $1,363 $1,319 -3%
Video Game Accessories $540 $493 -9%
* Mobile spending provided by Sensor Tower

“December 2021 consumer spending across video game hardware, content and accessories fell 1% when compared to a year ago, to $7.5 billion,” NPD analyst Mat Piscatella said. “December growth in subscription and recurrent spending across PC, console, and mobile platforms offset declines in premium game sales to keep content spending flat compared to a year ago, at $5.7 billion.”

That dip in full-game sales is likely due to a tough comparison to the launch month of Cyberpunk 2077 in 2020. Halo Infinite couldn’t offset that itself with its free-t0-play multiplayer.

But December’s downward trend couldn’t put a damper on 2021’s overall growth.

Annual 2021 Dollar Sales, Millions 2020 2021 Change
Total Video Game Sales $56,064 $60,399 8%
Video Game Content (Physical & Digital Full Game, DLC/MTX and Subscription consumer spending across Console, Cloud, Mobile*, Portable, PC and VR) platforms) $48,122 $51,692 7%
Video Game Hardware $5,331 $6,056 14%
Video Game Accessories $2,611 $2,652 2%
* Mobile spending provided by Sensor Tower

“Consumer spending [in 2021] reached a record $60.4 billion, 8% higher when compared to 2020,” said Piscatella. “Despite the December declines, full-year 2021 hardware spending reached $6.1 billion, gaining 14% when compared to 2020.”

Let’s get to the software charts.

December 2021 NPD: Top 20 best-selling games of the month in the United States

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

Rank Last Month Rank December 2021 Top 20 Games (Physical and Full Game Digital from the Nintendo eShop, PlayStation, STEAM and Xbox platforms for publishers in the Digital Leader Panel) ranked on dollar sales Publisher
1 1 Call of Duty: Vanguard Activision Blizzard (Corp)
2 NEW Halo: Infinite Microsoft (Corp)
3 3 Pokemon: Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl* Nintendo
4 5 Madden NFL 22 Electronic Arts
5 2 Battlefield 2042 Electronic Arts
6 13 Mario Kart 8* Nintendo
7 12 Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales Sony (Corp)
8 6 Mario Party Superstars* Nintendo
9 10 NBA 2K22* Take-Two Interactive
10 15 Animal Crossing: New Horizons* Nintendo
11 8 FIFA 22 Electronic Arts
12 21 Super Smash Bros. Ultimate* Nintendo
13 17 Minecraft Multiple Video Game Manufacturers
14 9 Far Cry 6 Ubisoft
15 11 Just Dance 2022 Ubisoft
16 4 Forza Horizon 5 Microsoft (Corp)
17 7 Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Square Enix Inc (Corp)
18 19 Ghost of Tsushima Sony (Corp)
19 29 Super Mario 3D World* Nintendo
20 18 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild* Nintendo
* Digital sales not included

As is standard these days, the bulk of the sales chart in the United States is a group of familiar hits. Perennial franchises like Madden, NBA 2K, and FIFA continue to pop in the top 10 as do evergreen Nintendo franchises like Mario Kart 8 and Animal Crossing. Newer games from the fourth quarter of the year are also going through their normal cycle of peaking and then slowly fading away. Far Cry 6 is fading a tiny bit slower than Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, though.

Call of Duty

Of course, nothing has the consistency of Call of Duty. That series is once again closing out a year on top.

“Call of Duty: Vanguard was December’s best-selling game,” said Piscatella. “Call of Duty ranked as the best-selling video game franchise in tracked dollar sales for a record 13th consecutive year.”

Halo Infinite

Halo had a strong debut despite its free-to-play multiplayer and its availability on Xbox Game Pass. As we saw with Forza, players still show up to buy many of these games.

“Halo: Infinite debuted as the No. 2 best-selling game of December 2021,” said Piscatella. “Halo: Infinite ranked as the December’s best-selling game on Xbox platforms, while also leading sales among tracked titles on PC.”

Pokémon

Pokémon is one of a handful of franchises that probably does have the annual consistency of a Call of Duty — it just has fewer assault rifles.

“Pokémon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl was the third best-selling title of December 2021, ranking first on Nintendo platforms for both December as well as full-year 2021,” said Piscatella.

December 2021 NPD: Top 10 best-selling Nintendo-platform games in the U.S.

Rank Last Month Rank December 2021 Top 10 Games (Physical and Full Game Digital for publishers in the Digital Leader Panel) ranked on dollar sales Publisher
1 1 Pokemon: Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl* Nintendo
2 4 Mario Kart 8* Nintendo
3 2 Mario Party Superstars* Nintendo
4 5 Animal Crossing: New Horizons* Nintendo
5 8 Super Smash Bros. Ultimate* Nintendo
6 3 Just Dance 2022 Ubisoft
7 12 Super Mario 3D World* Nintendo
8 7 The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild* Nintendo
9 9 New Super Mario Bros.* Nintendo
10 13 Minecraft* Nintendo
* Digital sales not included

December 2021 NPD: Top 10 best-selling PlayStation-platform games in the U.S.

Rank Last Month Rank December 2021 Top 10 Games (Physical and Full Game Digital for publishers in the Digital Leader Panel) ranked on dollar sales Publisher
1 1 Call of Duty: Vanguard Activision Blizzard (Corp)
2 5 Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales Sony (Corp)
3 3 Madden NFL 22 Electronic Arts
4 2 Battlefield 2042 Electronic Arts
5 8 NBA 2K22* Take-Two Interactive
6 9 Ghost of Tsushima Sony (Corp)
7 6 FIFA 22 Electronic Arts
8 7 Far Cry 6 Ubisoft
9 11 Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart Sony (Corp)
10 4 Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Square Enix Inc (Corp)
* Digital sales not included

December 2021 NPD: Top 10 best-selling Xbox-platform games

Rank Last Month Rank December 2021 Top 10 Games (Physical and Full Game Digital for publishers in the Digital Leader Panel) ranked on dollar sales Publisher
1 NEW Halo: Infinite Microsoft (Corp)
2 1 Call of Duty: Vanguard Activision Blizzard (Corp)
3 4 Madden NFL 22 Electronic Arts
4 2 Battlefield 2042 Electronic Arts
5 3 Forza Horizon 5 Microsoft (Corp)
6 5 Far Cry 6 Ubisoft
7 8 NBA 2K22* Take-Two Interactive
8 7 FIFA 22 Electronic Arts
9 11 Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla Ubisoft
10 9 Call of Duty: Black Ops: Cold War Activision Blizzard (Corp)
* Digital sales not included

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