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Analysis: NPD April U.S. Sales Down 17%

Analysis: NPD April U.S. Sales Down 17%

May 15, 2009 | By Kris Graft

May 15, 2009 | By Kris Graft
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U.S. video game industry sales slid 17 percent year-on-year in the U.S. during the month of April to $1.03 billion, research firm NPD Group said today.

It's the second consecutive month of decline this year for monthly U.S. video game sales. March 2009 also saw a 17 percent decline compared to the previous year.

NPD analyst Anita Frazier said, "While April sales might appear soft on the surface, it's important to remember that April is being compared against a month (April 2008) that realized nearly 50 percent growth over April 2007."

She also noted: "This year's performance still represents the second-best performance for the industry in the month of April, besting April 2007, which is the previous second-place holder, by 26 percent."

Particularly cited by analysts both before and during this latest set of results -- April 2008 saw the release of the blockbuster Grand Theft Auto IV, making for a tough comparison.

Frazier added that due to 2008s strong growth, there will likely be more months in 2009 that will have a tough time comparing to their respective months a year ago. However, she projected that May should be somewhat kinder, in any potential year-on-year comparison.

Hardware

Overall, U.S. video game hardware generated $391.8 million during April, an 8 percent decline year-on-year. DS sales broke 1 million units sold on the release of the new DSi hardware.

Also notable -- sales of PlayStation 2 enjoyed a boost thanks to the recent price cut that brought the console to $99. But Wii sales experienced heavy declines during the month, as unit sales dropped from 714,200 units in April 2008 to 340,000 units in April 2009.

Frazier attributed the decline to a tough comp, as last year saw the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Mario Kart Wii, which she said drove hardware sales. Overall, the hardware numbers for April 2009 are as follows:

DS: 1.04 million
Wii: 340,000
Xbox 360: 175,000
PS2: 172,000
PS3: 127,000
PSP: 116,000

Software

Video game software dropped 23 percent to $510.74 million during the month, with the following titles comprising the Top 10:

1. Wii Fit w/ Balance Board, Nintendo, 471,000 (Wii)
2. Pokemon Platinum, Nintendo, 433,000 (DS)
3. Mario Kart Wii w/ Wheel, Nintendo, 210,000 (Wii)
4. Wii Play w/ Remote, Nintendo, 170,000 (Wii)
5. The Godfather II, EA, 155,000 (Xbox 360)
6. Resident Evil 5, Capcom, 122,000 (Xbox 360)
7. New Super Mario Bros. , Nintendo, 119,000 (DS)
8. Mario Kart DS, Nintendo, 112,000 (DS)
9. Guitar Hero Aerosmith, Activision, 110,000 (Xbox 360)
10. The Godfather II, EA, 91,000 (PlayStation 3)

As can be seen, a number of stalwart Nintendo first-party titles for Wii and DS dominated the higher end of the chart, with third-party titles for Xbox 360 and PS3 mainly lower down the Top 10.

Frazier commented on the poor comparison: "The number of new releases this month is fairly comparable to what was introduced last April, but Grand Theft Auto IV (on both PS3 and the 360) sold nearly 1 million more units last April than the entire top 10 list did this year."

She added: "April 2008 also featured the release of Mario Kart for Wii, which has remained a top-selling game for this past year, and is on this month's top 10 list as well. This really illustrates the impact of comparing against a month when there were several new blockbuster titles new to the market."

Conclusion

Finally, accessories during the month of April generated $129.45 million in revenues, down 15 percent for the year.

Overall, year to date, the overall games industry (software, hardware and accessories) is down 4 percent to $5.28 billion, a disappointing first few months of the year for retail.


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