Video game industry sales slumped 17 percent in the U.S. during March to $1.43 billion, according to NPD Group.
It's the first time since September 2008 that NPD Group reported a year-on-year drop in overall monthly industry sales, when a tough comp against September 2007's Halo 3 led to a 7 percent revenue dip.
But NPD analyst Anita Frazier said it's not a time to panic.
"While it might be tempting to jump to the conclusion that the sky is starting to fall on the video games industry given this month's results, it's important to remember that two very big things are different this year than last," she said.
"First, Easter fell in March last year whereas it fell in April this year, and last March included the release of Super Smash Bros.: Brawl, which went on to become the fourth best-selling game in 2008."
Hardware sales were down 18 percent to $455.55 million, with Nintendo once again leading with the Wii and DS.
Software slid 17 percent to $792.83 million, with Resident Evil 5 driving sales. Across PS3 and Xbox 360, the game sold over 1.5 million units in March, its opening month. Frazier noted that it was a "record-breaking launch for that property."
Nintendo's hardware duo led sales for yet another month, with Microsoft's Xbox 360 following Nintendo in typical form. The PS3-exclusive Killzone 2, launched in late February, didn't spark an increase in console sales in March as some had hoped.
In addition, The PS2 dropped in price to $99 with four days to go in March's retail calendar, but mainstream consumers didn't immediately rush to pick up Sony's value option.
Wii - 601,000
DS - 563,000
Xbox 360 - 330,000
PS3 - 218,000
PSP - 168,000
PS2 - 112,000
Frazier said she was surprised at the relatively low hardware figures. "If there was one area that surprised me this month, it was hardware sales. While it's not unusual for March hardware sales to be lower than February, I thought we'd see higher unit sales on most platforms."
She added: "The Xbox 360 was the only platform to achieve a year-over-year unit sales increase."
Video game software during March was down 17 percent to $792.83 million. Resident Evil 5 and Pokemon Platinum led sales. Missing from the list is Take-Two and Rockstar Games' high-profile March DS release, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.
1. Resident Evil 5 (Capcom, Xbox 360) - 938K
2. Pokemon Platinum (Nintendo, DS) - 805K
3. Halo Wars (Microsoft, Xbox 360) - 639K
4. Resident Evil 5 (Capcom, PS3) - 585K
5. Wii Fit w/ Balance Board (Nintendo, Wii) - 541K
6. MLB '09: The Show (Sony, PS3) - 305K
7. Killzone 2 - (Sony, PS3) - 296K
8. Wii Play w/ Remote (Nintendo, Wii) - 281K
9. Mario Kart w/ Wheel (Nintendo, Wii) - 278K
10. MLB 2K9 (Take-Two, Xbox 360) - 205K
Frazier stated, "The top-ten software list includes three games for each of the new platforms as well as Pokemon Platinum for the DS. I think this shows that there doesn't have to be one winner of the console battle -- in fact software for all the platforms can enjoy retail success."
In addition, video game accessories fell 15 percent to $185.67 million.