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
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