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Sparse release lineup, lagging hardware still taking their toll on retail game sales

If you've been following U.S. retail game sales for the last several months, you've probably noticed a pattern. Sales have been down for months on end, and perhaps as expected, that trend continued in June.

Tom Curtis, Blogger

July 12, 2012

4 Min Read

If you've been following U.S. retail game sales for the last several months, you've probably noticed a pattern. Sales have been down for months on end, and perhaps as expected, that trend continued in June. According to data from the NPD Group, the retail game sales for the month saw a 29 percent decline to $699.8 million, down from $989.5 million in June 2011. Sales fared a bit better than they did the month prior, though that was partially because the NPD Group's data for June also covered the end of May. Despite the overall soft sales at retail, the NPD Group pointed out that this data only covers 50 to 60 percent of the total consumer spend on games. The company estimates that customers spent as much as $491 million on digital sales last month, and when factored in with used game sales and rentals, the NPD Group estimates that the total industry spend reached $1.36 billion. Keeping in line with the rest of the year so far, June saw relatively few new game releases, and retail software sales (including PC) dropped 27 percent to $362.8 million. Warner Bros.' Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes led the software charts for the month, and the NPD Group reported that it sold 450,000 units across seven platforms. The top ten best selling games at retail for the month were as follows: 1. Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (360, Wii, PS3, DS, 3DS, Vita, PC - Warner Bros. Interactive) 2. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier (360, PS3, PC - Ubisoft) 3. Diablo III (PC - Activision) 4. Max Payne 3 (360, PS3, PC - Take-Two) 5. NBA 2K12 (360, PS3, Wii, PSP, PS2, PC - Take-Two) 6. Batman Arkham City (360, PS3, PC - Warner Bros. Interactive) 7. Pokemon Conquest (DS - Nintendo) 8. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (360, PS3, PC - Activision) 9. Battlefield 3 (360, PS3, PC - Electronic Arts) 10. The Amazing Spider Man (360, PS3, 3DS, DS, Wii - Activision) The NPD Group's Anita Frazier noted that despite the drop in the total number of new releases, the amount of money made per game has remained somewhat stable. She said that publishers are producing 4 percent fewer units of software for the first half of 2012 as compared to 2011, but are still generating 2 percent more revenue on average. "This shows that while new launch performance is relatively stable, it is the sheer reduction in the number of launches that is contributing to the overall softness we are seeing in software so far in 2012. The decrease in new launch volume accounts for 41 percent of the net unit decline and 47 percent of the net dollar decline from first half of 2011,” she said. Hardware ended up being the industry's biggest negative contributor for the month, as that category saw sales drop 45 percent to 201.3 million. The top selling console for June was the Xbox 360, which Microsoft says sold 257,000 units. Of the three current home consoles, the Xbox 360 has been the number one seller for 18 consecutive months. Meanwhile, Nintendo announced that it sold nearly 95,000 Wii consoles, and more than 155,000 3DS systems, and 150,000 DS systems. Frazier added that the 3DS sales are up roughly 25 percent compared to where the original DS was during the same point in its lifespan. Nintendo noted that it held a 75 percent stake of the portable hardware market, and given its sales figures for the DS family, that means Sony's PSP and PlayStation Vita sold roughly 100,000 combined. "All hardware platforms, save the PS2 and PSP, saw a sales increase over May, even considering the difference in number of retail weeks. This can be attributed to the 'grads and dads' effect we normally see, but the increases were less than what we saw last year," Frazier said. Outside of the retail business, the NPD Group reported that outside of new physical software, mobile games have become the second largest sales channel for game content, and consumers have become more used to consuming digital content via their smartphones and tablets. The group also pointed out that point card sales are up 36 percent for the first half of the year, which is yet another indication that the industry is moving more and more towards digital games.

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About the Author(s)

Tom Curtis


Tom Curtis is Associate Content Manager for Gamasutra and the UBM TechWeb Game Network. Prior to joining Gamasutra full-time, he served as the site's editorial intern while earning a degree in Media Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

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