In contrast to last month, the video game industry saw year-over-year March growth in the U.S. retail console space, with revenues up 6 percent to $1.52 billion -- and PlayStation 3 had a rare month of software dominance.
According to tracking firm NPD Group, hardware sales were down 4 percent year over year to $440.5 million, as hardware prices declined 16 percent overall since last March. Software sales, however, grew 10 percent to $875.3 million and accessory sales were up 11 percent to $206.8 million.
NPD analyst Anita Frazier says this is the first non-holiday year-on-year increase for the industry since February 2009, and the third best non-holiday month ever -- welcome news after a year laced with eroded consumer confidence.
Sony took top software honors this month, with PlayStation 3 occupying four slots on the top ten, and generating 40 percent of the top ten games' revenue.
In fact, Sony Santa Monica's God of War III was the single-best selling SKU of the month with 1.10 million units, although the combined sales of Pokemon SoulSilver and HeartGold outnumber it with 1.781 million units.
On the multiplatform side, the combined Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 sales of Square Enix's Final Fantasy XIII reach 1.322 million units, followed by DICE's Battlefield: Bad Company 2 on the same platform with 1.277 million units.
The platform spread of those two titles is notable: Final Fantasy XIII sold better on PS3, while Bad Company 2 sold better on Xbox 360. The PS3 sales of the former were very close to the Xbox 360 sales of the latter, and vice versa.
Frazier also notes that Infinity Ward's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which did not break the top ten this month but continues to sell, has become the second-best-selling game of all time, after Nintendo's Wii Play.
The top ten console retail software titles for March 2010 are as follows:
1. God of War III (Sony Santa Monica/SCEA, PS3), 1.10 million
2. Pokemon SoulSilver (Game Freak/Nintendo, NDS), 1.02 million
3. Final Fantasy XIII (Square Enix, PS3), 828,200
4. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (DICE/Electronic Arts, Xbox 360), 825,500
5. Pokemon HeartGold (Game Freak/Nintendo, NDS), 761,200
6. Final Fantasy XIII (Square Enix, Xbox 360), 493,900
7. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Nintendo, Wii), 457,400
8. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (DICE/Electronic Arts, PS3), 451,200
9. Wii Fit Plus w/ Balance Board (Nintendo, Wii), 429,600
10. MLB 10: The Show (Sony San Diego/SCEA, PS3), 349,200
As it was last month, Nintendo DS was the big winner on the hardware side, moving in excess of 700,000 units with the help of the new DSi XL model -- the first time in nine months the platform has met achieved those total sales.
And although PlayStation 3 came in below its competitors, it continues to outperform its past self, with Frazier pointing out that this is the system's eighth straight month of year-on-year sales gains, an achievement compounded by its software success.
Retail console unit sales for March 2010 are as follows:
1. Nintendo DS: 700,800
2. Wii: 557,500
3. Xbox 360: 338,400
4. PlayStation 3: 313,900
5. PSP: 119,900
6. PlayStation 2: 118,300