Riding on the lucrative Easter shopping season -- as well as the sales of Mortal Kombat and Portal 2 -- the U.S. video game industry saw a 20 percent increase in April over what was reported last year, according to The NPD Group.
In all $961.2 million dollars were spent on video game hardware, software, and accessories (including PC games) at retail between April 3 and April 30, up from $802.4 million a year ago. These numbers translate to a 17 percent increase in unit sales, and bring the U.S. video game industry up 2 percent year-to-date versus 2010.
Numbers were up across the board, with the most significant growth coming from console and portable games -- the $503.2 million they brought in was 26 percent higher than the $398.5 million reported in April of 2010.
Much of this increase can be explained by the timing of the Easter holiday, which fell into the NPD's March tracking period in 2010 as opposed to April this year, but according to NPD analyst Anita Frazier the Easter timing only accounts for "about $60 million" of the growth. If accurate, this would mean the remaining $99 million or so increase game naturally.
Overall hardware sales increased 12 percent year-on-year for the month, from $249.5 million to $279.9 million, representing a 3 percent unit sales growth.
While individual hardware numbers are no longer provided by the group, it did say that the PlayStation 3, PSP and Xbox 360 platforms saw an increase in unit sales versus last year.
In second place was the Nintendo DS, which continues to outsell the new 3DS despite the latter system being on the market for the entire duration of the tracking period.
Sales of Sony's PlayStation 3 were up "nearly 13 percent" in the month, according to the company, which would put it at around 200,000 units sold.
April is the first month since November of last year to show both unit and dollar growth in physical software sales.
Software across all platforms -- including PC -- brought in $533.6 million in sales, up 24 percent from last year. Excluding PC, software sales grew 26 percent to $503.2 million.
More games were sold for the Nintendo DS, PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox 360 during the month than in April of 2010, with only the PSP showing a decline in unit sales.
The system that generated the most unit sales was the Xbox 360, with over 3.5 million games sold in the month. The Nintendo DS followed it, though numbers were not supplied.
As anticipated, Mortal Kombat and Portal 2 were the top-selling retail games in April, the former of which topped the charts at just under 900,000 copies between its Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 SKUs [UPDATE: 1 million including hardware-bundled special versions, NetherRealm's Ed Boon Tweeted].
The only other April debut to crack the top ten was Michael Jackson: The Experience -- its combined SKUs put it at #8, though only the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions were new for the month.
The top ten breakdown follows.
1. Mortal Kombat 2011 (Warner Bros. Interactive) (PS3, 360)
2. Portal 2 (Electronic Arts) (360, PS3, PC)
3. Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars (LucasArts) (Wii, NDS, 360, 3DS, PS3, PC)
4. Call of Duty: Black Ops (Activision Blizzard) (360, PS3, NDS, Wii, PC)
5. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters (Electronic Arts) (360, PS3, Wii)
6. Crysis 2 (Electronic Arts) (360, PS3, PC)
7. Just Dance 2 (Ubisoft) (Wii)
8. Michael Jackson The Experience (Ubisoft) (360, Wii, PS3, NDS, PSP)
9. Pokemon White Version (Nintendo) (NDS)
10. NBA 2K11 (Warner Bros. Interactive) (PS3, 360)
Accessory sales were up 20 percent to $147.6 million. According to the NPD, accessories represented the greatest year-over-year percentage increase of all categories so far.
The best-selling item for the month was the Xbox Live 1600 Points Game Card. The top-ranking new accessory was Sony's SOCOM 4: Full Deployment Bundle, which included a Move controller and the Sharpshooter gun accessory, as well as the game itself.
According to the NPD, SOCOM 4 would have ranked in the top ten software sales if these bundles were included in the rankings.