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NPD: October U.S. Sales Slump 19% As Wii Re-Tops Hardware
NPD: October U.S. Sales Slump 19% As Wii Re-Tops Hardware
November 12, 2009 | By Christian Nutt

November 12, 2009 | By Christian Nutt
More: Console/PC

October 2009 marks another down month for the U.S. video game industry, according to retail tracking firm, NPD, with sales down 19% to $1.07 billion year on year.

Thus, the month saw another disappointing slump for game retail, even as Nintendo Wii retook the top hardware spot from Sony's PlayStation 3, following the Wii's price drop.

Notably, with hardware prices lower on all console platforms, volume is not making up for the decrease in cost. The PlayStation 3 took the top spot last month on the back of its price drop to $299; this month it still sold better than the Xbox 360, but less than the price-reduced Wii.

Nonetheless, NPD Group analyst Anita Frazier says that this October is "the third best October on record, behind October 2007 and October 2008."

Hardware Sales

Video game hardware sales totaled $496.96 million dollars for October 2009, down 23% on the previous year. The Nintendo Wii, which dropped in price to $199 on September 27, enjoyed a full month of sales at its lower price -- and, in the process, retook its top spot in the hardware ranking, with 506,900 units sold.

The DS and DSi combined showed a robust 457,600 units sold for the month, with the PlayStation 3 -- at 320,600 units and bolstered by a price reduction and a major marketing campaign -- outselling the Xbox 360, at 249,700 units.

Sony also released its new PSP Go hardware in the beginning of the month, but the combination of the two formats sold 174,600 units for the month.

The direct download-only hardware drew fire from gamers and critics, thanks to its $249.99 price tag -- however, PSP sales did increase on a per-week basis (last month, the platform sold 190,400 in a five-week tracking period.)

Says Frazier, "Hardware sales were down 17 percent in units for the month, with the Wii and the Xbox 360 decreasing the most compared to October 2008. Compared to last month, which was a five-week month as compared to four weeks this month, Wii, PSP and NDS sales increased on an average sales per week basis, while the PS3 and Xbox 360 declined."

The full set of U.S. console hardware sales numbers for October 2009 is as follows:

Wii: 506,900
Nintendo DS: 457,600
PlayStation 3: 320,600
Xbox 360: 249,700
PSP: 174,600
PlayStation 2: 117,800

Frazier notes that the increased prices of new iterations of portable hardware -- PSP Go and DSi -- has increased dollar figures, even though overall sales are lower. Sony's strategy of bundling games and other bonuses with its PSP is also effective, she suggests: "While overall portable hardware unit sales are down, dollar sales are up thanks to an increase in the average selling price of portable hardware generated by the higher price points of the new portable systems and bundles."

"Recent price cuts helped spur a one to two-month increase in unit sales, and this month's Wii sales reflect that boost, but the other platforms have not sustained the sales momentum post price reduction," says Frazier.

She suggests it will be "difficult" to analyze the long-term effects of the price cuts the hardware have seen this year, since the next two months are traditionally the industry's best performers anyway.


There was no growth this month in any category, with games, hardware, and accessories all down year-on-year (18 percent, 23 percent, and 2 percent, respectively). The overall market itself is still down 13 percent year to date, with total sales of $11.43 billion, compared to $13.16 billion for the same period of 2008.

Gamasutra has also published the full NPD Top 10 software chart, topped by Naughty Dog's PlayStation 3 exclusive Uncharted 2, alongside the hardware charts.

"Based on typical industry seasonality, the industry is on track to generate full-year revenues in the range of $20 to $21 billion in the U.S., which would put it just a bit below last year's sales of $21.3 billion," says Frazier.

NPD research suggests that while consumers believe the overall economy is improving, concludes the NPD analyst, "their outlook on their own personal situation is worsening. If consumers' personal outlook continues to erode, they could very well be much more conservative with their holiday shopping this year."

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Dan Saundberg
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The worst is over now. The catalogs are looking better and better and the PS3 2010 catalog is IMPRESSIVE.

This is probably the last big drop (I hope) in monthly sales.

Nathan Goik
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I want to know the separate sale numbers of the PSP and PSP Go. Lumping them together as a platform total is confusing when the industry is clearly watching the PSP Go closely to see if it is a bellwether for digital distribution.

Isaiah Taylor
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Nintendo has had a rough couple of weeks with EA and Iwata having to defend the Big N but they have good news know.

Ken Masters
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@ Nathan:

The fact that PSP is down month to month from September sales, it's not looking very encouraging. But we won't know for sure until we get the breakdown.

Adam Flutie
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I agree with Nathan. Digital is the future right? I would love to see the sales numbers for this 'future'. My gut feel though is unless it is a phone, DL only is bound to fail.

Russell Carroll
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@ Ken

October was a 4 week month, September was a 5 week month. With that in consideration, PSP sales were actually up over September (43K/week in October vs 38K/week in September).

Mike Lopez
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With all the canceled projects, layoffs and shrunken SKU plans this year it seems pretty unrealistic to me that the industry can recover to the same retail numbers in the next 6-10 months. There are only so many Top 10 Hits (10 to be precise) and I can't see greater sales from those to fully compensate from all the lost revenue on all the cut titles.

That said, I think that NPD, the Big Publishers, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are all doing the industry and Wall Street a disservice by not clearly reporting digital sales from DLC, micro-transactions and digital distribution. It seems to me it would be in everyone's best interest to show the total declines to be offset as much as possible by digital and to show at what rate digital content is taking hold over retail. What's the holdup here?

Adam Flutie
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@mike - Very good points about the digital numbers. I think the only reason they don't report it is because it doesn't actually look good, yet. I think they are pushing a medium that doesn't have the numbers to match, but keeping silent as they wait to see it develop into what they are hoping it will turn into. The problem with early reporting is if the numbers are bad, people will pull out on it before they feel it has the time it needed to develop.

Then again, maybe it's working, but they are afraid to compare without knowing the numbers others are pulling. You don't want to tout numbers until you are sure it helps your position...

Mike Lopez
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@Adam F. - I thought of the potential to scare others away but did not think that made sense. What matters with forecasts are trends, not single month numbers. As long as the numbers show increasing sales and hopefully increasing rates of growth that bodes well for a medium most everyone sees an inevitably dominant. Your other point makes some sense to me (in the normal twisted corporate greed way) - many players are worried about numbers envy. However, I do think it is extremely likely Microsoft has far and away the highest digital distribution and DLC numbers, so why not sing them to the high heavens to show the dominance of their Xbox Live service?

Once you have a few players willing to consistently report their numbers, any holdouts will look bad to Wall Street because it will look like they have something to hide. It seems like a PR advantage for anyone who is likely to have some better than average numbers there.

But that's just my logic talking. With my cynical industry veteran hat on I expect the numbers to stay childishly hidden for at least another year. :)

Ken Masters
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@ Russell:

You're right. I overlooked that fact.

gstarr W
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@ Adam and Mike - TakeTwo has already reported that they were displeased with the performance of the GTA download sales on the 360. That is why you can now buy them on physical media at a store. It stands to reason that if one of the biggest games sold on the system to the very demographic most likely to download didnt do well, it's probably all downhill from there and not very promising.

Another reason for the lack of sales numbers could be the fear of angering retailers. Why would store XYZ grant shelf space or ad space to a product that might perform better in the digital download format? Sony has already experienced that backlash with some retailers refusing to carry the PSPGo because there was no future revenue stream for the retailer. Digital Downloading has a lot to still overcome.

Mike Lopez
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@gstarr - those are some valid points but I would have to respectfully disagree with your reasoning that the digital market is all down hill. That announcement was based on the early release numbers of GTA IV Lost and Damned, not on lifetime numbers (the lifetime of digital can be years longer than retail). And just because the market in Winter 2009 was not there that certainly does not mean digital distribution is destined to fail. I am sure all publishers like the profit margin better for digital distribution (70% vs. maybe 33%) and with the added benefits of not having to jockey for shelf-space and price-reduce to keep inventory from being return they certainly have a high incentive to make the switch. Also the 2M sales estimates for Lost and Damned by Wedbush Morgan I would not describe as weak (again we do not have real numbers); sure it is not the 7M 360 sales of GTA IV, but it is also an expansion pack title, not an entirely new iteration.

I believe you are mistaken about why The Lost and Damned did not originally go to retail. The true reason is that Microsoft brokered a $50M deal with them to release 2 GTA chapters exclusively on XBL. The Ballad of Gay Tony is the second chapter but it is true that they are now co-releasing a retail version with BOTH episodes (Episodes from Liberty City).

Good point about not wanting to anger retailers. That is certainly the biggest concern for them. But I would think that retailers cannot really afford to hold back any of the top titles now, at least for the top publishers. Sort of like when Wallmart with their family image would not carry any M rated games but then conspicuously sidestepped that rule to carry GTA. Even they were not willing to turn down such a sales opportunity despite their family corporate image. Sooner or later the publishers will battle with retail over digital and if I were running a publisher I would make a big leap now.

I still maintain that there is some curious mojo going on with the industry and a perceived apprehension of fully embracing digital head-on (non-exclusively of course), but you are right digital distribution still has plenty to overcome.