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NPD Results, April 2010: A Real Downer, At 26 Percent

NPD Results, April 2010: A Real Downer, At 26 Percent

May 13, 2010 | By Christian Nutt

May 13, 2010 | By Christian Nutt
More: Console/PC

The NPD Group has announced its latest round of U.S. retail console numbers revealing that Xbox 360 exclusive Splinter Cell: Conviction was the bestselling game of April 2010, as overall revenues drop 26 percent year over year.

Video game segment sales overall dropped to $766.2 million compared to $1.03 billion in April 2009. NPD analyst Anita Frazier notes that this, at 26 percent, is the fourth largest year over year percentage decline ever, "after September 2000, June '09 and July '09." Year to date, the market is down 11 percent, at $4.73 billion, as compared to revenues of $5.29 billion through April 2009.

Frazier notes that the timing of Easter this year changed things: "In April '09, consumers attributed $55 million of industry sales to Easter as a purchase occasion, which would account for about 21 percent of the decline from last year since Easter purchasing happened in March this year."

Frazier notes that portable sales are markedly down, a situation that has long been noticable. The Nintendo 3DS is due later in the year and the PlayStation Portable is in major decline in the West.

In knock-on news, "declines in portable sales compared to April '09 accounted for 61 percent of the total industry decrease," writes Frazier, despite the segment contributing 25 percent of total dollar sales for the month.


Though Sony's PlayStation 3 dominated the software charts in March, April was a more familiar picture: Nintendo on top, with six games in the top 10 (two for DS, and four for Wii.) Microsoft's platform had two, and so did the PlayStation 3.

The software segment generated $398.5 million in revenue, down from last April's $512.0 million, a 22 percent change. Year to date, software has generated $2.52 billion in sales, down 8 percent from last year's total of $2.73 billion through April.

Ubisoft's Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction was the top-selling game for the month, debuting to 486,100 units. The latest Pokemon titles, HeartGold and SoulSilver were at places 2 and 4, respectively, and sold a total of 435,500 copies together.

Frazier ascribes some of the downturn to dropoff in March-released titles: "A big contributor to the decline in software sales comes from the March '10 new releases, which fell off more dramatically than did last year's March releases. In aggregate, March '09 new releases dropped off by 54 percent in April '09 sales, while this year, new releases in March '10 dropped off by 75 percent in April."

She also notes that "April '10 new releases sold more units than did last April's new releases so it wasn't the top-selling games or the new releases that were at the heart of the software decline. Those compare very favorably to last year."

Tracking the evolution of the market, Frazier says that by the NPD Group's reckoning, "casual" games (which, to them, includes Action Oriented Racing, Fitness, Multiple/Other Sports, Music/Dance Games, Party Games, and Platform/Scrolling Character genres) "comprised only 24 percent of software dollar sales in April 2010 as compared to 36 percent last April, and indication that more core content shored up better than did some of the more casual or non-traditional content."

Frazier does not draw any inferences about what caused this change, and as always, the NPD's results only track U.S. retail sales -- and do not take into account major online game sectors such as Facebook game microtransactions, MMO subscriptions, and other sectors.

Starting with this month's results, the NPD Group has declined to provide unit numbers for the top 10 retail games; instead, it is shifting to providing just the top five figures.

1 Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft, 360), 486,100
2. Pokemon SoulSilver (Game Freak/Nintendo, NDS), 242,900
3. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Nintendo/Nintendo, Wii), 200,300
4. Pokemon HeartGold (Game Freak/Nintendo, NDS), 192,600
5. God of War III (Sony Santa Monica/SCEA, PS3), 180,300
6. Wii Sports Resort (Nintendo/Nintendo, Wii)
7. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (DICE/Electronic Arts, 360) 166,000 (Note: Microsoft-released figure)
8. Wii Fit Plus w/ Balance Board (Nintendo, Wii)
9. Just Dance (Ubisoft Paris/Ubisoft, Wii)
10. Super Street Fighter IV (Capom, Dimps/Capcom, PS3)

In its NPD email, Microsoft also noted that the Xbox 360 version of Super Street Fighter IV made the "console top 10", which excludes portable titles, at 108,000 units sold.

It also reiterated figures for the Halo: Reach beta, saying that more than one million players participated in the public beta during its opening day, a number greater than the total participants in the beta of Halo 3.


Hardware unit sales fell sharply compared to March 2010, and revenue dropped tremendously compared to April 2010, when prices were generally higher. They stood at $398.5 million, compared to April 2009's $512 million. Accessories dropped 9 percent year over year, to $118.4 million from $129.6 million.

Despite the revenue drop, however, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 both made gains in unit sales. "The PS3 and the Xbox 360 both enjoyed a unit sales increase over last April while all other systems declined," says Frazier, noting that "the PS3 accounted for 84 percent of the total unit sales increase."

Sony, in its NPD email, points out that the system is the only one with "growth both year over year (42.6 percent) and year to date (37.2 percent)".

"Compared to March '10 on an average sales per week basis, all platforms declined between 37 percent and 63 percent. Inventory at retail could be playing a role in some of the systems' decreases," writes Frazier.

Despite dropping 71 percent in sales year over year, the Nintendo DS is still the bestselling piece of hardware for the month, at 440,800 units. The charts for April 2010 are as follows:

1. Nintendo DS: 440,800
2. Wii: 277,200
3. Xbox 360: 185,400
4. PlayStation 3: 180,800
5. PSP: 65,500

Frazier also notes that The NPD Group expects the DS to dethrone the PlayStation 2, which the firm has stopped publicly reporting as of April 2010, as the bestselling hardware platform ever in October or November 2010.

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