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U.S. retail game sales suffer in April as release lineup remains sparse
U.S. retail game sales suffer in April as release lineup remains sparse
May 10, 2012 | By Tom Curtis

May 10, 2012 | By Tom Curtis
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

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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Joe Zachery
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The best selling game was around 236K on two consoles. If I'm working a game right now I may just move it over to the next generation consoles. People are not buying any games right now across every console.

Joe McGinn
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Yes and no .. they are still buying the blockbusters ... problem is that's the only thing being made now, and there aren't enough of them. To many console developers closed up over the last few years and now that's coming back to haunt the industry. Well no surprise there.

Joe Zachery
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Still what counts as a blockbuster? Prototype 2 was a major release last month. Tiger Woods is a yearly sports release, and the only golf game on the market. Mario Party 9 is the first Mario Party game in 3 to 4 years. The last game sold 8 to 10 million copies world wide. If these games are not considered blockbusters I don't know what is. If your saying people only buy games released during Christmas then yes you have a point. Still not everyone can release a game against Call of Duty, Assassin Creed, "Nintendo FPG" and Madden. With out being lost in the shuffle, by sending their game out to do. So early in the year is your best chance to get some sales. Which right now doesn't seem to be a good idea either.

Kenneth Wesley
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This seems really bad and seeing Xenoblade Chronicles not chart was painful....until it was revealed that NPD doesn't track store exclusives and many people bought Xenoblade Chronicles from Nintendo directly. NPD is just seeming like a small fragment of industry health now.

Jonathan Murphy
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How many times do I have to repeat this? The economy for most countries is complete garbage. A $60 game is a death wish 98% of the time. The markets where games are sold much lower, mobile, indie, downloadable have all seen growth.

If the price tag jumps to $70 a game next gen with $40 million budgets. Good by to whoever chooses that poison pill.

Kevin Jones
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Statistics can be sometimes be deceptive. Looking back at past April 360 and even PS3 sales, this year's April hardware sales are not that bad actually, with the 360(in 2012), registering its second best April sales in the last 6 years. Pretty good for a console in it's 7th year.

April NPD Sales Figures(last 6 years)
360 PS3
2007 174k 82k
2008 188k 187k (GTA IV launch
2009 175k 127k
2010 185k 180k
2011 297k 204k
2012 238k 167-199k

The Wii however, is another matter altogether:

April NPD Sales Figures (Last 6 years)

2007 360k
2008 714k (Mario Kart Wii launch)
2009 340k
2010 277k
2011 172k
2012 67-99k

The Wii probably had its worst April sales ever.

Andrew Chen
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Sequels, sequels, sequels!
Kevin, indeed the core market has held fairly steady whereas, presumably, most Wii software sales now are comprised of residual customers in the casual segment. I actually feel like Nintendo let both markets down this last year or two...even in the face of encroaching mobile platforms I think family oriented fun experiences oriented around motion+ could have found a market. But alas that software well seemed to have run dry once Miyamoto (and Nintendo in general) turned his attention to 3ds.
Wonder if GameStop or Nintendo will Issue any press releases regarding Xenoblade sales?

wes bogdan
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The wii is the best-worst thing to happen to gaming and the industry in decades because it both expanded who gamed and has the most shovelware on any system.
The wii crashing hard is negatively impacting the whole industry because if it were just 360 vs ps3 we be much better off. Yes the econimy sucks wordwide but if the massively bad wii games didn't flood the market it would be worlds better.

I predict that 2 years after xbox next and ps4 hit nintendo will rush out another system to compete with the new next gen boxes.

Imho nintendo is entering orbit of sega's hardwaredeath sprial which put sega as 1st out,1st out of date rinse repeat and gone. So while handhelds are ok for now

nintendo will likely partner up or be bought out or become the next ea,ubisoft.

wes bogdan
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On the games front myself i buy more than cod,sol cal,mk,bf etc i actuially prefer games with originality like patta-pon,loco roko,starhawk,disgaea,valkyria chronicles,blue dragon or brutal legonds. I can't make the sheep buy original games but i'm glad they're there so at least those looking past the sequilitise can find something original in gameplay if not story.