[In the industry's most-read NPD analysis, Gamasutra analyst Matt Matthews looks at the state of the U.S. game market going into 2009, from Nintendo dominance through Call Of Duty's evolution.]
As 2009 opens, the video game industry is reorganizing itself. Publishers are restructuring and modifying product schedules, while some development houses have disbanded.
However, these are changes that the retail world will not feel for several months yet. Accordingly the modest sales growth from December 2008 has continued into the new year, and analysts expect modest gains to extend through much of 2009.
The reality is that Nintendo rules this industry. Hardware, software, and accessory sales for Nintendo's twin powerhouses, the Wii and Nintendo DS, accounted for nearly half of all revenue in 2008.
For the first month of the new year, Nintendo's platforms claimed nearly 52% of all industry dollars, up from 33% for the same period last year.
While Sony's platforms appear to be languishing, the Xbox 360 continues to sell hardware at historically high rates and is maintaining its robust software sales.
This year will likely determine whether publishers can continue to justify big budget cross-platform games for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 -- even as Wii software dominates the top slots in the sales charts.
During the second half of 2006, after the introduction of the Lite version of the Nintendo DS, headlines each month declared more extraordinary sales figures for the dual-screen handheld.
Since the introduction of the Nintendo Wii, whose sales have been just as remarkable, it has become nearly commonplace to see Nintendo leading both handhelds and consoles as new monthly figures are reported by the NPD Group.
The Nintendo Wii again led console sales in January 2009, as it did during the prior fifteen consecutive months. Coming down from the peak in December, Nintendo still managed to sell almost 170,000 systems per week, or nearly 2.5 times as many systems as it sold in January of the previous year.
In 2008, Nintendo appeared to struggle to supply Wii (and Nintendo DS) hardware during the first month of the year, and appears to have settled those issues for the beginning of 2009.
Microsoft sold over 77,000 Xbox 360 systems per week during the month, which should be considered quite strong.
By comparison, the only months during which the Xbox 360 has had a higher weekly sales rate were holiday months (Novembers and Decembers), the Halo 3 launch period (September and October 2007), and the strong October leading into the 2008 holiday season.