Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
October 31, 2014
arrowPress Releases
October 31, 2014
PR Newswire
View All

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:

The 10 best-selling games of 2012
The 10 best-selling games of 2012
January 10, 2013 | By Frank Cifaldi

It was a rough year at retail for the United States video game industry.

According to the NPD Group, consumers spent 22 percent less on new video game hardware, software and accessories during the year than they did in 2011: that's $3.73 billion fewer dollars being contributed to the economy through retail video game sales.

There are several factors contributing to this, not the least of which is a quick shift to digital entertainment. Game players are spending less in stores, and spending more on their phones, tablets, computers, and the digital storefronts on their consoles.

But there's another invisible threat: what analysts are calling "gamer fatigue," as the current generation of video game consoles comes toward the end of its lifespan, and players anxiously await what's next.

Add to that the fact that far fewer games were released this year (29% fewer, in fact), and it's not hard to see why 2012 was not friendly to the industry.

Still, the biggest games continued to sell by the truckload in 2012, though even they may be declining.

The top 10 retail video games in the United States in 2012:

1. Call of Duty: Black Ops II (360, PS3, PC, Wii U)
2. Madden NFL 13 (360, PS3, Wii, PSV, Wii U)
3. Halo 4 (360)
4. Assassin's Creed III (360, PS3, PC, Wii U)
5. Just Dance 4 (Wii, 360, Wii U, PS3)
6. NBA 2K13 (360, PS3, Wii, PSP, Wii U, PC)
7. Borderlands 2 (360, PS3, PC)
8. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (360, PS3, Wii, PC)
9. Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (Wii, 360, NDS, PS3, 3DS, PSV, PC
10. FIFA Soccer 13 (360, PS3, Wii, PSV, 3DS, Wii U, PSP)
(Source: The NPD Group)

Related Jobs

The Workshop
The Workshop — Marina del Rey, California, United States

InnoGames GmbH
InnoGames GmbH — Hamburg, Germany

Mobile Developer C++ (m/f)
The College of New Jersey
The College of New Jersey — Ewing, New Jersey, United States

Assistant Professor - Interactive Multi Media - Tenure Track
Next Games
Next Games — Helsinki, Finland

Senior Level Designer


Alix Stolzer
profile image
The fact that every single one of the games on the list is a sequel was almost a surprise.

Bob Johnson
profile image
Well the song remains the same. Look at 2004's best selling games. All sequels except one which was released in ~2001. And fairly similar to this year's list.

1 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas PS2 Rockstar Games 19.87 million
2 Halo 2 Xbox Microsoft Game Studios 7.87 million
3 Madden NFL 2005 PS2 EA Sports 3.41 million
4 ESPN NFL 2K5 PS2 Sega 2.87 million
5 Need For Speed: Underground 2 PS2 Electronic Arts 2.36 million
6 Pokémon Fire Red with adapter GBA Nintendo 2.08 million
7 NBA Live 2005 PS2 EA Sports 2.02 million
8 Spider-Man 2 PS2 Activision 1.78 million
9 Halo: Combat Evolved Xbox Microsoft Game Studios 1.34 million
10 ESPN NFL 2K5 Xbox Sega 1.26 million

Justin Sawchuk
profile image
Well they are going to throw more money at a sequel and the game will already be known so of course its going to beat out original IPs and you can mostly blame gamers for that one.

Sean Monica
profile image
To be fair, a lot of them were the end games or sort of nearing the end. It really felt more like a wrap up year to me, although well done.

Nick Harris
profile image
I'd like someone with more time than me to come up with a Top Ten of original videogame IPs released in 2012. I've just spent the last ten minutes trying to get the raw sales data that the NPD Group took the top ten sellers out of, but my Google-fu wasn't up to it.

It might be interesting to see what original IPs on both PC and Console sold well, not just limp along with various pundits critically acclaimed indie game recommendations, which is frankly rather subjective.

John Trauger
profile image
29% fewer game releases, 22% less revenue...connection?

[User Banned]
profile image
This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Bob Johnson
profile image
They aren't making more revenue per game at retail. It is just that the DS and Wii titles that were bringing down the averages aren't selling so great in number any more. :)

Sean Monica
profile image
You have to remember the mega stance indie games are making! Especially with steams new green light bursting now. A lot of the community is getting involved in the smaller games as they take off so these major companies are taking (although probably small) a hit as players get tired of the same 60$ game year after year ex. call of duty = copy paste.

Stanley de Bruyn
profile image
@Sean Monica you sound negative about COD.

But this copy paste argument can be change with "familiar" even a "rework". "Refinement of the sucses formula". It still the same argument but with a much more positive flavor. Me a 40+ Play blops2 and have a lot of fun online. So it isn't that bad. Its even good and getting a even better game. I prefere Blops over MW there choices are more my preference but I enjoyed Mw2. MW3 I just played a little because BF3 took most of my time.

Jason Lee
profile image
I thought it was a critically great year for games in 2012 (Dishonored, XCOM, Hotline Miami, Journey, FTL, Far Cry 3, etc) so it makes me a little sad to see that the number of sales don't match the relatively higher quality bar that I felt was set this year on both the AAA and indie side of games.

But this doesn't include digital storefront sales at all, does it? And if that is the case, I wonder how these numbers would look with the inclusion of Steam, XBox Digital Sales, and PS3 Digital Sales.

Curtis Turner - IceIYIaN
profile image
Just retail. If you included browser games and downloadable games from the countless stores(FacebooK/Social Sites/Steam/Desura/Origin/ Stores/Etc Etc Etc) it would show a very different picture.

Lewis Wakeford
profile image
I agree with this. Both that 2012 was a pretty good yeah in terms of quality releases, and with the oddness caused by only including boxed retail.

I'm sure many PC gamers are pretty much exclusively digital distribution now.

Andreas Ahlborn
profile image
@Christian: I´m from Germany, too and from what I see, the retail PC sales are so low compared to the console numbers, because of Steam & Co.
It`s a generation question I guess: whereas I bought 10 PC-games between 2010-2012 via Steam and maybe 30 via retail, my Son (now 18) bought 130+ games via Steam and nada via retail. As long as Steam doesn`t release its numbers, this whole charts thing is becoming more and more pure speculation.

Steven Ulakovich
profile image
Madden taking the second spot surprises me, that has to be the highest it has charted in some time.

This industry needs more transparency. We know what every other entertainment medium does almost instantly, while gaming still sticks with the archaic reporting of the NPD Group.

I also agree that 2012 was a very quality year for the games themselves. This may have become the watershed year that the "Indie" title finally gets accepted as what they are, games, just like the $60 discs that release at stores.

Steven Stadnicki
profile image
Madden is one of the few big games that's essentially _only_ available via retail channels, so its numbers may be inflated compared to other titles that have some form of digital download that simply doesn't track on this chart.

Jonathan Murphy
profile image
Here's my view of the market, "Sequels ahoy Captain! Aye, we need to steer clear of this siren's song! Oh no Captain we got too close! There's a whirlpool taking us down!"

Maria Jayne
profile image
Wow....I'm so behind the curve. I have played NONE of those.

Kujel Selsuru
profile image
I enjoyed Halo 4 and Boarderlands 2, Assassin's Creed 3 was okay but not nearly as good as AC Brotherhood, the rest I wouldn't touch with a 30 meter pole.

Thom Q
profile image
Too bad its yet another US list. Anybody any info on all retail markets in the US? Here in EU all physical retail is down a lot, mostly due to online stores.

With a non physical product as games, I'd bet that in that market even more is being bought online / downloaded.

After all different analysis, I've yet to see a global games-industry report. How much has been made in 2012 globally, where was this money made, and by whom?

I'd be very interested in those figures, if someone could point me to them :)

Matt Terry
profile image
From personal experience, throughout the past 20 years or so of gaming, I would purchase 10+ major console titles per year. In the past few years, especially in 2012, I purchase many more games than normal, but the vast majority were mobile/F2P/Indie. I purchased maybe 4-5 major retail games. Why? Because I get way more bang for my buck with other-than-retail games and I'm finding I enjoy beating multiple 5-6 hour games within a month than keep coming back to a 25+ hour game within one month to beat it.

Joseph Elliott
profile image
"But there's another invisible threat: what analysts are calling "gamer fatigue," as the current generation of video game consoles comes toward the end of its lifespan, and players anxiously await what's next."

That's interesting. I don't know anyone personally who's looking forward to buying new consoles. That being said, I also don't know many people who buy the kinds of games on this list.

I've owned a 360 all generation, and I'm much more inclined to buy a PS3 at this point than anything new being released. Cost is down, hardware and games are still great. I just don't see the point of getting excited about a new console generation when the high profile titles are likely to be sequels of the same franchises I'm playing (or avoiding) today.

Matt Ployhar
profile image
The game has shifted. The problem with the premise of this article goes back to what's being reported by the researcher. They're only tracking Retail. Retail died many years ago for PC. It's now dying for Consoles. If we only look at raw units & revenues in retail we literally miss 90% of the entire picture.

Here's my most recent blog on this topic.

The #1 'traditional' game being played on PC or Console right now really isn't Call of Duty. It's actually League of Legends. Even World of Tanks by comparison is dwarfing CoD BO II.

So yeah.... is the "Sky Falling for Video Games at Retail". Most likely.... but we've seen this story before.

Bob Johnson
profile image
Yeah but do we really know how popular LoL is? edit: guess we do. IT is pretty popular.

A F2P signup isn't the same as a $60 sale.

For every $60 game sold there could be a few players playing that game in a household. Never mind the used game market.

Then of course just because you sign up for a F2P game doesn't mean you actually do more than check it out for a minute or even play it.

And since the game is free they would have a ton of new accounts checking it out all the time.

Also the numbers I see touted for number of players on at any time are they worldwide or just the US? Is the game in Asia? A CoD is a western game. And probably doesn't much of an audience in Asia.

For all I know LoL has a huge Asian following. And thus maybe we are comparing apples and oranges a bit.

Not take anything away from LoL. I just don't swallow the kool aid without dotting i's and crossing t's.

also if you want to talk about free games. Stuff like Minesweeper or Hearts are pretty popular. Club Penguin was quite popular with the kids. Not sure it still is.

Fiore Iantosca
profile image
I can't believe Madden is that high. THen again, it's the only viable NFL game to play. Damn EA.

Lou Hayt
profile image
I'd like to see the top 10 games most played (in hours please)

Matt Cratty
profile image
That list is itself a reason why sales are dropping.

Great games are RARELY made anymore.

I put over 1000 hours into games made pre-2007 this year. And that's a VERY conservative estimate. That's not so good if you care about the future of the industry.

Note: Yes, I realize one person is not useful data. But, I find that ...oh... let's say 20 percent of my friends agree with my opinion when we talk about gaming.

The hardware side anyone can figure out. No one is buying anything until the new ones that are already in the works comes out.

Bob Johnson
profile image
That is what all old people do. ;)