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NPD: December U.S. Revenue Up 4% In Best Month Ever
NPD: December U.S. Revenue Up 4% In Best Month Ever
January 14, 2010 | By Chris Remo

January 14, 2010 | By Chris Remo
More: Console/PC

Economic conditions notwithstanding, December saw U.S. console retail game market revenues rise 4 percent year-over-year, from $5.32 billion to $5.53 billion, to become the best single sales month on record for the industry, even as software declined 7 percent to $2.58 billion.

In fact, software was the only segment to decline, according to the NPD Group's monthly numbers -- hardware rose 16 percent year-over-year to $2.19 billion, and accessories rose 15 percent to $760.2 million.

The year-over-year results fly in the face of some analysts' predictions. Even after taking a slightly less negative view, many still expected NPD results to show a revenue decline for the month.

"December marks just the fourth month of the year where the industry saw an increase over last year," NPD analyst Anita Frazier wrote in an accompanying statement. "January and February were both up, and since the decline that began in March, only September experienced growth."

"The big sales this month, particularly on the hardware front, is a positive move for the industry headed into what will hopefully be a recovery year in 2010," she added.


On the hardware side, Nintendo was the big winner for the month as usual, with Wii exceeding 3.8 million units sold and Nintendo DS breaking 3.3 million for the month.

Stressing how strong December 2009 was for hardware, Frazier also noted the strength of the current generation as a whole: "This current generation of console hardware has outsold the last by more than 9 million units during the first 50 months in the market."

Despite those systems' close proximity, the gap to third place was huge, with PlayStation 3 coming in 2 million units behind DS, but just ahead of Xbox 360. Meanwhile, neither of Sony's other consoles approached a million units for the month.

The full console sales results are as follows:

Wii: 3.81 million
Nintendo DS: 3.31 million
PlayStation 3: 1.36 million
Xbox 360: 1.31 million
PSP: 654,700
PlayStation 2: 333,200


For the holiday month, the family-friendly New Super Mario Bros. jumped ahead of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which settled in at the fourth and fifth place slots. Two other Nintendo-published titles, Wii Fit Plus and Wii Sports Resort, joined Mario in the top three.

In fact, Nintendo-published titles comprised the majority of the chart in December, with five Wii titles and one Nintendo DS title.

The full software sales results are as follows:

1. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Nintendo), Wii - 2.82 million
2. Wii Fit Plus (Nintendo), Wii - 2.41 million
3. Wii Sports Resort (Nintendo), Wii - 1.79 million
4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Infinity Ward, Activision), Xbox 360 - 1.63 million
5. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Infinity Ward, Activision), PS3 - 1.12 million
6. Wii Play (Nintendo), Wii - 1.01 million
7. Mario Kart Wii (Nintendo), Wii - 936,100
8. Assassin's Creed II (Ubisoft Montreal), Xbox 360 - 783,100
9. Left 4 Dead 2 (Valve, Electronic Arts), Xbox 360 - 728,500
10. Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (Alphadream, Nintendo) - 656,700

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E Zachary Knight
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@John Smith,

Tell me About it. If anyone has questions about the message it is this: "You're doing it wrong."

Mark Harris
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That's the same message N has been sending for a long time now. Mario sells, period. The Wii Play, Fit, Sports triumvirate are what the system is known for. No surprises whatsoever.

43% of third party sales are on the 360, which is where 3rd parties are going to focus their efforts (see Ubisoft) since they know how to make money on the HD consoles. Parroting N's games doesn't help 3rd party Wii sales since those games, even if they are executed flawlessly, can't stand up to N's first party brand recognition. It looks like 3rd parties either have to keep bleeding money to come up with a winning formula on the Wii or cut their losses and give up on it altogether.

I'd like to think that there is enough passion for winning in the industry that we'll see some creative 3rd party Wii solutions, but business in a tough economy doesn't provide a lot of room for experimentation.

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Marco Devarez
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I personally cant wait for that NBA Jam update for the Wii, despite what all the Madworlds, and Deadspaces have indicated, that game will be the litmus test for 3rd party success on the Wii.

Mark Harris
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Good point, John. By "making money" I was talking pure revenue, and with the majority of revenue for 3rd parties coming from the 360 and PS3 (43% alone on the 360 according to a different NPD related article on Gamasutra) I'd say that is their best bet as of now. They have proven that they can sell a ton of games on the HD consoles.

I'd be happy to talk all day about the production issues and waste that plagues many video game projects and significantly hampers industry profitability. I agree 100% that many of our market leaders are working on unsustainable business models and their cost structures are vastly out of whack. It's very similar (as a pattern) to the early years of general software development, where skyrocketing demand and revenue allowed the industry to grow very quickly with little thought to formalized process and project management. Anywho, that's another talk entirely. Profits may not be lining up, but the 3rd party revenue is there... just not on the Wii.

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I don't think Third Parties put "A" teams on Wii development project (with the exception of Ubi and EA) Epic has already stated their dislike for the technology of the Wii and refuses to develop games for it. Beshedetha has yet to develop a game for the Wii. Valve has yet to do so. Infinity Ward also expressed their dislike of the technology on the Wii. So what Wii gets is Third Parties finding a reason once again not to compete with Mario on his own console.

My question is is it really helping them out? Infinity Ward held the top spot for MW2 for one month and then the next month 4th and 5th place on two separate consoles. Count the numbers together and you get a healthy sales record on the year, but look at it in a split sense and you realize that health won't last.

I don't think that Third Parties have proven that they can make a lot of money on HD consoles. Only a few of them has proven that. Let a Third Party release a game for one HD console over another and you will get the same abysmal results you see when you do it for the Wii. The only thing Third Parties have proven is that the port button is good for their bottom line.

Mark Harris
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Even Ubi is backing off their Wii schedule, despite putting "A" teams on those projects. I don't think it CAN'T be done, I'm just saying that 3rd parties aren't generating much revenue on the Wii, which we all know, and they have tough decisions to make about how to allocate limited funds on future projects.

Fábio Bernardon
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I find it amazing that people complains about Wii sales while no AAA effort has been truly deployed on the system. Where is a Modern Warfare 2 effort like game on the Wii, if not in Nintendo games? Yeah, a 1-year developed game should really be compared to the 2+ years production of Nintendo titles.

Capcom did put effort on Monster Hunter 3 for the Wii, and that is the Monster Hunter game that has sold more units in a non-portable system ever. So put on the effort and build the games people want instead of doing short/lazy development and complaining on the results.

John Gordon
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@Marco Devarez

I totally agree. NBA Jam is actually a third party, non-exercise, Wii exclusive that has serious developer and publisher effort behind it and actually fits the Wii audience. I think a lot of people will be surprised how well it does on the Wii compared to other third party titles.

Actually I think we are going to start seeing several third-party hits that are Wii exclusive this year. Monster Hunter Tri and Epic Mickey both have some serious effort behind them as well, but I'm about 50/50 on whether the US Wii audience will really accept them or not.

Adam Flutie
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@Marco and John

I think the problem is most people probably want NBA Jam on the other consoles, but EA isn't offering it. It will be interesting to see if it takes off or not and what success or failure is attributed to when people analyze the results.

I'm guessing thought behind a game like this without any wiimote specific actions, but Wii exclusive, will cause a higher pricepoint and hopefully higher profits.

I mean why make it Wii exclusive unless you are hoping for something the Wii can do and none other. This leads it to a few questions: 1) Install base? targetted demographic? 2) Wiimote? 3) Price point for the game on the system?

I'm thinking it is Wii exclusive simply because other systems would instantly brand it a XBLA or PSN title, and cap at $15. Keeping it Wii exclusive gives it a higher price point. I don't think the other two answers are a good reason for it to be Wii exclusive.

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Roberto Alfonso
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It is kind of funny this "retail Wii game = PSN/XBLA game". There is no way EA would have launched a new NBA Jam game digitally. If/When a Xbox 360/PS3 version is launched, it will be through retail, not digitally.

John Gordon
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John Smith is absolutely right. The Wii is at least as much about local multiplayer as it is about motion control. At the end of 2008 it was surprising that Lego Star Wars on the Wii was one of the top selling games even though it was usually just out of the top ten on any given month. Wii players were looking for games with good multiplayer and Lego Star Wars fit the bill.

Talking about install base, it would be interesting to know what percentage of console owners have 4 controlers on the Wii, PS3 and XBox360. I'm sure that the Wii percentage would be a lot higher. I think the Wii has a higher % of users with at least 2 controllers too. Few games on the PS3 or XBox360 feature good local multiplayer, while local multiplayer is expected on a Wii game.

gstarr W
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@ Adam

You must be insane. PS/360 owner have plenty of hi-def basketball already! They would burst out in laughter at "HE"S ON FIRE!!!" in low rez. Wii owners on the other hand, could care less if they can see the sweat drip down Kobe's face. They just know that 'back in the day' they loved NBA Jam. I guarantee this game will be a hit with the Wii audience and there will be a Gamasutra article title with some element of the phrase "HE'S ON FIRE!!!!!!". Because this game has the name recognition, the install base, and most likely the 'fun' quotient to be a mega-hit.