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U.S. retail game sales suffer in April as release lineup remains sparse

Video game sales at U.S. retail suffered a significant decline in April, with analysts attributing the decline to a consistent lack of new releases over the last several months.
Video game sales at U.S. retail suffered a significant drop in April, adding to the industry's continuing declines at retail over the last several months. Software proved to be the biggest negative contributor to an overall industry-wide decline to $630.4 million. The $307.2 million in software sales for the month represents a 42 percent decline from April 2011, according to data from the NPD Group. These software numbers were well below PiperJaffray's estimates of $375 million, and the NPD Group's own Anita Frazier attributed this sharp drop to the lack of new releases for the month. "I think what the new physical retail content sales reflect a very light release schedule in terms of the amount of compelling new games. Last April, the top seven titles outsold the top-selling title this year, and, simply stated, there were notably fewer new market introductions," Frazier said. One of the months few big releases, Activision's multiplatform Prototype 2 led the software charts the month, followed by Microsoft's Xbox 360-exclusive Kinect Star Wars at number two. When looking at products by individual SKU, Kinect Star Wars was the number one title across any individual platform. "Kid Icarus: Uprising on the 3DS ranked among the top 10 SKUs for the month, and would have made the list if we were reporting on SKU rather than total title level," Frazier added. The top ten best-selling games at retail for the month were as follows: 1. Prototype 2 (Xbox 360, PS3) 2. Kinect Star Wars (Xbox 360) 3. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC) 4. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 (Xbox 360 PS3) 5. NBA 2K12 (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PSP, PC, PS2) 6. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings: Enhanced Edition (Xbox 360, PC) 7. Mario Party 9 (Wii) 8. Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC) 9. Just Dance 3 (Wii, Xbox 360, PS3) 10. MLB 12: The Show (PS3, Vita) Despite the steep decline for video game software, Frazier noted that digital sales may have fared a bit better, as virtual currency and pre-paid time cards saw a distinct rise in sales year over year. "For some insight into digital purchasing of content, we can look at the performance of points and subscription cards which was up 75 percent in units over last April," Frazier said. Much like retail software, however, video game hardware also saw a dip during the month, falling 32 percent to $189.7 million year over year. The top selling console for the month was Microsoft's Xbox 360, which Microsoft says sold 236,000 units. Of the three current home consoles, the Xbox 360 has been the number one seller for 16 consecutive months. Shedding some extra light on the declining hardware sales, Frazier explained that the average price of hardware increased from April 2011, particularly since Microsoft debuted its $399 Kinect Star Wars console bundle. The NPD group also remains optimistic about ongoing sales for Nintendo's 3DS hardware: "One thing to keep in mind is that the 3DS has outsold the DS by about one million units in their respective first 14 months in the market, and the DS went on to become the best-selling gaming hardware system ever," Frazier said. Looking ahead to next month, analyst firm PipperJaffray estimates that video game retail sales should begin to pick up, as May will see the launch of major titles like Blizzard's Diablo III and Rockstar's Max Payne 3.

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