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NPD January: Gaming Sales Hold Steady

If you follow the earnings announcements from gaming companies, it might be easy to conclude the industry is taking its share of licks from the recession just as other sectors are.  There’s a bankruptcy here.  Plenty of guidance revised downward.  Missed numbers there.  It’s an easy conclusion to make but it wouldn’t be quite right. Register receipts at retail tell a different story.

Demonstrating a clear gap between the operational performances at individual companies and an industry’s broader health, NPD retail data for January released this week showed the gaming sector grew steadily.  All segments – software, hardware, accessories – reached double digit year over year revenue growth.  As with December results, it was slow and steady, reliant on a few key constituents more than others (namely Nintendo), but still solid.

Total U.S. gaming revenue for January was in at $1.33b, a 13% year over year (“Y/Y”) acceleration.  Hardware was the most aggressive segment at 17% Y/Y ($445.4m).  Software grew a more modest 10% to $676.6m.   Accessories were up 11% to $209.8m.

Looking at the hardware segment first, it was Nintendo’s month….again!   Nintendo’s Wii, showing staying power more like a literary best seller than an electronics device, took the honor for top console sales for the sixteenth consecutive time.  That’s sixty four weeks at number 1.  In total, 679k Wii units were sold in January.

Microsoft came in second in the console rankings with unit sales of 309k units, good enough for a 33% year over year gain.  

Sony, moving in the opposite direction, came in last with PS3 sales eroding 24.5% Y/Y to 203k units.

The story was the same for Sony in portables too.  The PSP dropped 25% to 172k units in January.  The Nintendo DS took the portables category honor with sales of 510k units.

In the software segment, results paralleled those in hardware: Nintendo dominated, Microsoft showed well and Sony struggled.   All three of the month’s top ten games were for the Wii.  At number one, Nintendo’s Wii Fit moved a staggering 777k units, a record for the best selling game in a January period (when not counting cumulative sales for titles available on more than one platform).

In total, Nintendo owned six of the month’s top ten sellers; four for the Wii and two for the DS.  Expanded to the top twenty games, Nintendo accounted for eleven titles, nine for the Wii and two for the DS.

Microsoft cornered the remaining four slots on the monthly top ten with titles for the Xbox 360.  In the top twenty, the company had nine representatives.  

Sony didn’t make the top ten but had one top twenty title (Call of Duty: World at War from Activision Blizzard, finishing at 11).

Among third party publishers, EA was tops on the month for the top ten, taking three positions to Activision Blizzards two.  In the top twenty, Activision had a slight edge thanks to Call of Duty titles placing on three platforms and Guitar Hero titles on two. 

Third party publishers accounted for thirteen of the top twenty games.

Taking a wide view: to the health of the industry, Nintendo’s contribution can’t be understated.   Portables, Consoles, Hardware, Software – no matter where you looked it was Nintendo’s month.  The company’s products accounted for about $689m, or 52%, of the January revenue result (via Gamasutra).

Here are the rest of the January results, by the numbers:

January Hardware Sales (in units sold) (December Result)
• Wii: 679,200 (2.15 million)
• Nintendo DS: 510,800 (3.04 million)
• Xbox 360: 309,000 (1.44 million)
• PlayStation 3: 203,200 (726,000)
• PlayStation Portable: 172,300 (1.02 million)

January Software Sales (Title, (Platform, Publisher) – Units)
1. Wii Fit with Balance Board (Wii, Nintendo ) – 777,000
2. Wii Play with Remote (Wii , Nintendo ) – 415,000
3. Mario Kart Wii with Wheel (Wii, Nintendo ) – 292,000
4. Left 4 Dead (360,  Electronic Arts ) – 243,000
5. Call of Duty: World at War (360, Activision Blizzard ) – 235,000
6. Skate 2 (360, Electronic Arts ) – 199,000
7. Guitar Hero World Tour (Wii, Activision Blizzard ) – 155,000
8. New Super Mario Bros. (DS,  Nintendo ) – 135,000
9. Mario Kart DS (DS,  Nintendo ) – 132,000
10. Lord of the Rings: Conquest (360, Electronic Arts ) – 113,000

January, Overall Industry Totals (Total ( % Change Y/Y)(Last month’s total))
Video Games: $1.33b (13%) ($5.29b)
Video Games Hardware:$445.4m (17%) ($1.88b)
Video Games Software: $$676.6m (10%) ($2.75b)
Video Game Accessories: $209.8m (11%) ($662m)

For comparative data, NPD’s data from prior reports can be found by clicking the names of the month as follows:
2008: •January  •FebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovember December
2007: •February•March•April•May•June•July•August •September•OctoberNovember December

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