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NPD: January U.S. video game sales decline well below estimates

With no hit games released and unfavorable comps versus last year, January retail console video game sales dropped an astounding 38 percent, far below analyst consensus.
With no new hit games released last month, January retail video game sales declined steeply in the United States, though the drop was far deeper than analysts expected. New games sold at retail, across all consoles and computers, generated only $379.6 million between January 1 and 28. That's a 34 percent decline, which is more than double a conensus estimate from video game analysts at Wedbush and Sterne Agee of around 15 percent. While the lack of new releases versus last year was a significant contributor to the decline (January of 2011 saw debuts that included Dead Space 2, Little Big Planet 2 and DC Universe Online), NPD analyst Anita Frasier says that consumers also weren't purchasing as many of the major holiday releases in January 2012 as they were in January 2011. "As shoppers were not drawn to stores due to new launch activity, this potentially impacted additional software purchases made on impulse," she explained. Software As expected, the strongest performing software in January was left over from the holiday period. In fact, no January debuts managed to crack the software top ten chart. Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was the best selling game, followed by Ubisoft's Just Dance 3 and Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Software sales across all consoles and portables brought in $355.9 million, a 38 percent decline over January 2011. Retail PC games add another $23.7 million to that total. Hardware Microsoft's Xbox 360 was the top selling console for the sixth straight month. The 270,000 units it sold contributed to a total of $199.5 million in hardware-based revenues, a decline of 38 percent from the prior year. Accessories Accessory sales were down 18 percent from last year at $195.2 million, due to unfavorable comps vs. last year's Kinect surge, according to the NPD. Toy accessories for Activision's Skylanders represented 22 percent of those sales. Beyond New Retail The NPD estimates that video game industry revenues outside of physical retail sales -- including used games, downloads, social game revenue, mobile, rentals and subscriptions -- would add another $350 to $400 million to the $750.6 million that combined retail sales brought in.

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