While U.S. retail game sales have continued to decline all year, August finally saw the launch of several new and popular games, alleviating the ongoing drought of retail releases in 2012.
Over the last several months, the U.S retail game industry has seen sales drop year-over-year, due in part to the fact that there have been very few major retail game releases. While those sales declines still continued in August, the NPD Group reported that new titles like Darksiders II and New Super Mario Bros. 2 ended up leading software sales, adding some much-needed variety to the 2012 retail space.
Looking at the retail industry as a whole, the NPD Group reported that overall video game sales hit $515.6 million in August, marking a 20 percent decline compared to August 2011. Factoring in used sales, rentals, and digital sales, however, the firm estimated that the total consumer spend on games was approximately $989 million.
Over on the software side, sales reached $252.8 million (including retail PC games), down 11 percent from August 2011, and Darksiders II, New Super Mario Bros. 2, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance led the top-selling software charts. The latter two titles are exclusive to the 3DS, and their launch coincided with the recent debut of Nintendo's 3DS XL.
The NPD Group does not typically reveal hard sales numbers, but GameInformer reports that Darksiders II sold 247,000 units, while Activision's recently-released Transformers: Fall of Cybertron sold 105,000 units.
The top ten best selling games at retail for the month were as follows:
1. Darksiders II (Xbox 360, PS3, PC - THQ)
2. New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS – Nintendo)
3. Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (3DS – Square Enix)
4. NCAA Football 13 (Xbox 360, PS3 - EA)
5. Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (Wii, Xbox 360, DS, PS3, 3DS, PS Vita, PC - Warner Bros.)
6. Sleeping Dogs (Xbox 360, PS3, PC – Square Enix)
7. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron (Xbox 360, PS3 – Activision)
8. Batman: Arkham City (Xbox 360, PS3, PC - Warner Bros.)
9. Call of Duty: Black Ops (Xbox 360, PS3, DS, Wii, PC - Activision)
10. The Amazing Spider-Man (Xbox 360, PS3, 3DS, DS, Wii - Activision)
While five new titles found their way into the software chart, NPD analyst Anita Frazier said that the software space is still suffering because of the sparse release lineup from earlier this year.
In fact, she pointed out that August actually saw "more new titles when compared to last year; titles with sales that were significantly better than last year's launches. So, what we're seeing impact August results is the domino effect of the light release schedule from earlier in the year. That lack of new releases has had a significant impact on subsequent month's sales."
Meanwhile, hardware ended up being the industry's biggest negative contributor for the month, as sales dropped 39 percent to $150.6 million.
The top selling console for the month was the Xbox 360, which Microsoft says sold 193,000 units. Of the three current home consoles, the Xbox 360 has been the number one seller for 20 consecutive months.
While Microsoft's console maintained its lead, Frazier pointed out that none of the platforms that were on the market last August saw a year-over-year increase in sales. The 3DS and PlayStation 3, however, both saw sales increase when compared to July 2012.
Part of the 3DS' sales increase can be attributed to the launch of the 3DS XL, but since that hardware model launched late in the month, it was only included in the final seven days of this report. Even so, it still made up 44 percent of Nintendo 3DS unit sales in August.
With the overall hardware market looking so bleak, Frazier added that the market could really benefit from some fresh new platforms.
"The current hardware systems are showing their age, so it goes without saying that it would be great to have new systems breathe life into traditional retail industry sales. I am anxious to learn more about the Wii U launch later this month. And with any luck we will hear news about other systems on the horizon," she said.