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[Gamasutra analyst Matt Matthews reviews NPD Group's January 2010 sales figures, which reflect evergreen Nintendo-published titles and how Sony is headed towards a single-platform focus.]
According to the latest video game retail sales figures from the NPD Group, released on Thursday last week, the industry started 2010 with another year-over-year decline. While many analysts now expect the industry to return to growth by March, it is clear that the industry once thought recession-proof is still struggling just to maintain an even keel.
On the hardware front, much is happening. We may be witnessing the collapse of two platforms – Sony's PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable.
Simultaneously both Nintendo and Sony have indicated that they are having trouble supplying enough hardware to the market after the furious holiday rush. These factors, along with last year's hardware price cuts pushed hardware revenue down a staggering 21% compared to January 2009.
For the month of January 2010, software prices remained flat when compared to a year prior. Therefore when software unit sales fell by 12.7%, software revenue also fell by nearly the same amount.
In fact, the accessory segment – which consists of controllers, points/cash cards, and many other items – was the only one which showed any revenue growth last month, inching up a mere 2.5%. However, the accessory segment is also the smallest of the big three, and therefore any growth there was more than consumed by the losses in the software and hardware segments.
The table below shows all the revenue data released by the NPD Group about retail video game sales in January 2010 as well as January 2009.
As we look at the available data below, we make three major points. First, it appears that Sony could become a single-platform company in the very near term. Second, Nintendo's evergreen software line-up appears to be getting even more evergreen; that is, the company has more and more titles making consistent appearances at the top of the software sales lists.
Finally, to understand how we might manage to turn the declines around we make a somewhat unusual comparison: how January 2010 is actually more like January 2008 than January 2009.