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Aging consoles, infrequent releases hurt U.S. retail game sales in May
Aging consoles, infrequent releases hurt U.S. retail game sales in May
June 14, 2012 | By Tom Curtis

June 14, 2012 | By Tom Curtis
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

Video game sales at U.S. retail experienced some major declines in May, continuing the industry's downward trend at retail over the last several months.

Overall, the retail game industry experienced a 28 percent decline in retail sales to $516.5 million, down from $718.9 million in May 2011. Hardware proved to be the biggest negative contributor, as that category saw sales decline 39 percent to $138.9 million.

This hardware decline is somewhat expected, as many of the current platforms are reaching the end of their lifespan. According to NPD analyst Anita Frazier, however, a significant portion of this month's decline can also be attributed to the year's sparse lineup of hit games.

"YTD 2012, there have been 27 percent fewer new software title introductions into retail which we believe is a big part of the softness we're seeing in May sales," she said. "A title obviously continues to see sales beyond its launch month, so there is a longer term impact from a narrower array of available new content."

With the sparse release lineup, software sales (including PC) saw a 16 percent drop to $335.2 million, slightly below analyst estimates. Prior to the NPD report, analyst firms Piper Jaffray and Wedbush Securities predicted that software sales would reach as high as $338 million or $350 million, respectively.

Looking at individual releases, Blizzard's PC exclusive Diablo III was the leading title for the month -- an impressive feat, considering it launched on only one platform and the NPD's data only covers boxed units sold at retail stores. Copies sold digitally via do not factor into its data.

While the year's new release lineup has been relatively empty, May saw the introduction of other major titles such as Rockstar's Max Payne 3 and Ubisoft's Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, both of which secured a place near the top of the month's software charts.

The top ten best-selling games at retail for the month were as follows:

1. Diablo III (Activision Blizzard, PC)
2. Max Payne 3 (Take-Two, Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
3. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier (Ubisoft, Xbox 360, PS3)
4. Prototype 2 (Activision Blizzard, Xbox 360, PS3)
5. NBA 2K12 (Take-Two, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PSP, PS2, PC)
6. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Activision Blizzard, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC)
7. Sniper Elite V2 (505 Games, Xbox 360, PS3)
8. Battlefield 3 (EA, Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
9. Dragon's Dogma (Capcom, Xbox 360, PS3)
10. Just Dance 3 (Ubisoft, Wii, Xbox 360, PS3)

"To dig deeper into the new physical retail software performance this month, new launches generated 31 percent more dollars this May than they did last May, largely due to the success of Diablo III," Frazier added.

Looking at specific hardware platforms, the top selling console for the month was the Xbox 360, which Microsoft says sold 160,000 units. Of the three current home consoles, the Xbox 360 has been the number one seller for 17 consecutive months.

Frazier said that among all the hardware platforms on the market, Nintendo's 3DS was the only platform to see an increase in unit sales year over year.

While the May NPD numbers certainly look a bit grim compared to this time one year ago, Frazier pointed out that the firm estimates that these totals make up only 50 to 60 percent of the total consumer spend on games.

"When you consider our preliminary estimate for other physical format sales such as used and rentals at $155 million, and our estimate for digital format sales including full game and add-on content downloads including microtransactions, subscriptions, mobile apps and the consumer spend on social network games at $420 million, we would estimate the total consumer spend in May to be $1.17 billion," she said.

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Fabio Macedo
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If I understood this correctly - I'm terrible with numbers - we got a 28% decline in a month with 27% less titles released? Sounds like it all broke even in the end. Considering all the other factors mentioned (such as aging consoles) and the current economic state of affairs, I'd call it a win for the industry, not something to brood over.

Terry Matthes
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You've got it Fabio. These all to frequent un correlated loss reports are starting to wear on me.

TC Weidner
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with a world recession coming, its gonna get a lot worse before it gets better.

thay thay
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The consoles need price drops badly.

Bob Johnson
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40% drop in 360 sales YoY. The other consoles probably experienced similar percentage declines.

Todd Raffray
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Couldn't have anything to do with the economy being crap. Just because people go see Adam Sandler garbage during a recession doesn't mean they will drop $60 to play the gaming equivalent.

Joe McGinn
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"economy being crap" strikes me as an excuse, not a reason .... economy's been in the sh*tter for almost four years now. So celarly it does not explain the sudden lose of revenue this year.

Harlan Sumgui
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Just glancing at those titles is enough to understand why the market is in decline.

You've got to hand it to the Blizzard folks though. Being able to launch a game with the most insane drm, a pay2win element, and zero resale value without any backlash is absolutely genius.

ian stansbury
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I think a lot of that is "We're Blizzard, this is what we do". Since no one is surprised no one really gets mad. I mean it's blizzard, of course they're greedy.

On the larger topic, I think every gamer I know has sequel fatigue. Another ghost recon? I never even played Max Payne 2. It's not that they are good/bad. I personally just long for something new. This is a large reason indy games like minecraft are such huge sellers right now. Which is good for us PC gamers. It's really the big publishers who are getting pummeled right now.

Bob Johnson
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Well Blizzard has developed a good rep so consumers pay up.

Also helps that the last Diablo game came out over 10 years ago.

They also offer a 30 day money back guarantee btw.

Bob White
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Agree 100%. Still amazes/embarrasses me that so many gamers handed their rights and freedoms as consumers over to Blizzard so quickly.

As I've said in the past, we'll see how those Diablo 3 servers are doing in 5 years. The servers will either be gone or subscription based and then people will hopefully start to realize that this is NOT the direction the industry should be going.

Bob Johnson
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@Bob White

Don't be so dramatic. Giving away your freedom and your rights, being embarrassed and amazed?

....because there is a possibility that you won't be able to play the video game you bought in 5 years?

I think the world has slightly bigger problems. And certainly gaming has slightly bigger problems.

If only every developer could release a quality game like Diablo 3 that I might not be able to play in 5 years.

Tiago Costa
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Aging consoles, infrequent releases hurt U.S. retail game sales in May ...

I would say that bad games hurt U.S. retail game sales in May, the best games came out on the PC (diablo ") so its not an aging console and for a game that had its last iteration tens years ago I would say that the title should change to:

"Infrequent game not in a console pushed the sales of may up"

EDIT: even worse, "NPD's data only covers boxed units sold at retail stores. Copies sold digitally via do not factor into its data."

Yes by all means give us another generation, but please mantain the level of the games that appeared in this generation and then when PS4/Xbox720/WiiU are in their early years, mid years and late years generate other excuses for the decline of the market, you can use the following to generate excuses.

Marketsales plunge excusatron:

This month, games havent sold well because (choose one or more):

1. Other big games came out this month so games in general cant sell that much
2. People spent their monies in other entretainment forms
3. Consoles are aging
4. Consoles are new
5. Consoles are not new and not old enough
6. People want the sequel of this new IP and not the first installment that were selling now
7. People wanted the game with more one day DLC
8. Piracy really held us back
9. Second hand market held us back, even if our game is online
10. No one knows this IP, with the same lack luster gameplay as the latest big hit
11. Our MMO was very different from WoW, altough its the same game

And the list goes on but the cinic in me needs to go out and have lunch.