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NPD: Retail Game Sales Flat In November At $3 Billion

NPD: Retail Game Sales Flat In November At $3 Billion

December 9, 2011 | By Eric Caoili

Despite a 15 percent boost in software sales last month and a flood of holiday deals, total retail game sales for the U.S. were essentially flat in November 2011 at $3 billion.

According to data released Friday by the NPD Group, sales for hardware and software grew just 0.4 percent from last year's total of $2.99 billion during the same period. It expects year-over-year physical sales or December to remain flat or fall down to as much as 3 percent, based on historical seasonality trends.

The NPD Group's Anita Frazier explains, "While content sales grew substantially thanks to a great slate of new content, a decline in average retail price in all categories with the exception of portable hardware resulted in flat dollar sales even though unit sales grew for console hardware, as well as console, portable, and PC software."


The top 10 best-selling retail games in the United States for November, 2011 were as follows (new releases bolded):

1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (360, PS3, Wii, PC) - around 9 million units
2. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (360, PS3, PC)
3. Battlefield 3 (360, PS3, PC)
4. Assassin's Creed: Revelations (360, PS3, PC)
5. Just Dance 3 (Wii, 360)
6. Madden NFL 12 (360, PS3, Wii, PSP, PS2)
7. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (PS3) - 700,000 units
8. Saints Row: The Third (360, PS3, PC)
9. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) - 600,000 units
10. Batman: Arkham City (360, PS3, PC)

"This November marks the best November on record for sales of new physical content," says Frazier. "November 2008 was previously the best November on record." Software sales increased 15 percent to $1.67 billion.

She points out that Activision Blizzard's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 had a particularly successful month with around 9 million copies sold, besting first-month sales for last year's Call of Duty: Black Ops by around 7 percent.

While Electronic Arts' Battlefield 3 came out last month and faced much competition from Modern Warfare 3, Frazier says it was "the third best-selling game of the month, and is now the best-selling title under the Battlefield property."

She adds, "In one month, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is just about half a million units shy of matching Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in lifetime sales. Its first month performance was a five-fold increase over Oblivion's first-month sales. The game garnered outstanding review scores."

Frazier notes that Warner Bros. Interactive's Batman: Arkham City sold well in its second month and is "just shy" of matching Batman: Arkham Asylum's lifetime unit sales.  PlayStation 3 exclusive Uncharted 3 sold 700,000 copies, according to Game Informer.

"When looking at the top 10 best selling titles at the SKU level, both Super Mario 3D Land and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary would have been included," says the NPD analyst.

Nintendo says Super Mario 3D Land sold 625,000 units and is the fastest-selling portable Super Mario title in U.S. history. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword sold 600,000 units.


On the hardware side, November marked the fourth consecutive month that Xbox 360 was the top-selling system after moving 1.7 million units, a 24 percent swell, according to Xbox Live programming director Larry "Major Nelson" Hyrb.

Frazier comments, "The gap between 360 sales and sales of the next best selling platform was the largest we've seen since December 2008 when the Nintendo DS was the top selling system."

Nintendo reports that it sold over 2 million total hardware units last month, 860,000 of that being Wii systems (a 245 percent month-over-month increase but a 32 percent year-over-year sag), 520,000 sold on Black Friday alone.

As for its other systems, the 3DS moved 795,000 units, and the DS line sold 350,000 units (a 77 percent fall off, compared to November 2010).

This was the biggest sales month for 3DS, and was an increase of more than 215 over the previous top month. The portable has now sold 2.37 million units since launching in March 2011. Wii has now sold 37.7 million since November 2006.

Sony says PS3 recorded its best ever Black Friday sales period in the console's five-year history, experiencing a 70 percent year-over-year increase in hardware sales to about 900,000 units, and a 30 percent growth in software. The company reports that demand was high for holiday bundles.

"The month-over-month sales increase versus October that all systems realized is in line with the range we typically see going into November, so hardware performed in line with typical seasonality trends," says Frazier.

Though consoles saw increases in unit sales, hardware sales for the month still fell 9 percent year-over-year to $982.4 million, compared to $1.08 billion in November 2010.

Accessories sales also saw a big 34 percent drop from $414.4 million last year during the same period to now $273.8 million.

Frazier points out, "The majority of the decline in dollar sales versus last November can be attributed to Specialty Controllers resulting from tough comparisons against last year when the Kinect launched."

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