As expected, the U.S. console retail business saw its sixth straight month of year-over-year sales drops this August, with tracking firm NPD reporting a 16 percent decline to $908.72 million in revenue in August 2008.
Although numerous analysts expect the remainder of 2009 to see more positive sales figures on the back of strong upcoming titles, NPD's Anita Frazier cautioned against undue optimism for the year as a whole, noting that "the back four months of the year would have to be up 14% in aggregate for 2009 to come in flat in comparison to 2008 sales."
Hardware sales dropped more than average, down 25 percent to $297.6 million, but they at least seem to be improving on a month-to-month basis, likely in part due to price cuts from Microsoft and Sony, which took effect during the reporting period.
All current-generation consoles saw unit sales increases over July, with PlayStation 3 up 72 percent over the prior month, with a mid-month price cut to all models and PS3 Slims entering the retail channel during the month. The Xbox 360 Elite and Pro also cut their price on August 28th.
The fuller force of the recent price cuts is likely to be seen in NPD's September results, since the PS3 Slim had an official release date of September 1st and the Xbox 360 had very little time to build sales -- thus, the moves will have had a full reporting period's worth of impact.
Software sales were down 15 percent year-over-year to $470.3 million -- although PlayStation 3 bucked that trend to become the only platform with an overall software gain.
Despite the pricing shake-up, the actual order of console sales was almost unchanged from July's results, the only difference being the position swapping of PlayStation 3 and PSP.
The full list of U.S. console retail hardware sales numbers for August 2009 is as follows:
Nintendo DS: 552,900
Xbox 360: 215,400
PlayStation 3: 210,000
PlayStation Portable: 140,300
PlayStation 2: 105,900
But within that familiar lineup, Wii was down a significant 39 percent year-over-year, while PlayStation 3 was up 13 percent year-over-year and Xbox 360 was up 10 percent.
NPD analyst Frazier pointed out that, even with its declines, Nintendo's Wii is hardly selling at unhealthy levels compared to the other consoles and historical data.
"There is a lot of speculation about Wii and whether Nintendo will take a price cut as sales comps to last year show declines," she wrote. "I do think it's interesting to note that the Wii is still selling at levels comparable to what the PS2 was doing at about this point in its lifecycle."
The Electronic Arts-published, EA Tiburon-developed Madden NFL 10 was, unsurprisingly, the big winner for August, with three versions in the top ten. But while the PlayStation 2 version sold well enough to chart, the Wii and PSP games did not.
NPD noted that Madden sold nearly 1.9 million units across all platforms, leaving 147,000 units between Wii and PSP. Furthermore, based on sales of the tenth-place Fossil Fighters, neither version could individually have sold more than 92,000 units. [UPDATE: Biz site Industrygamers confirmed that the Wii version of Madden sold 67,000 units, meaning that the PSP version seems to have outsold it, with around 80,000 units sold.]
Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham Asylum also debuted with its two console versions in fairly close proximity, Xbox 360 leading by only 13,000 units. The full Top 10 list for retail console games for August 2009 in the U.S. is:
1. Madden NFL 10 (EA Tiburon), Xbox 360 - 928,000
2. Wii Sports Resort (Nintendo), Wii - 754,000
3. Madden NFL 10 (EA Tiburon), PS3 - 665,000
4. Batman: Arkham Asylum (Rocksteady, Eidos/Square Enix), Xbox 360 - 303,000
5. Batman: Arkham Asylum (Rocksteady, Eidos/Square Enix), PS3 - 290,000
6. Madden NFL 10 (EA Tiburon), PS2 - 160,000
7. Dissidia: Final Fantasy (Square Enix), PSP - 130,000
8. Wii Fit (Nintendo), Wii - 128,000
9. Mario Kart Wii (Nintendo), Wii - 120,000
10. Fossil Fighters (Red Entertainment, Nintendo), NDS - 92,000
Overall, Nintendo published four of the top ten retail games in the U.S. in August 2009, Electronic Arts published three, and Square Enix published three, thanks partly to its recent acquisition of Batman: Arkham Asylum publisher Eidos.