It’s often said that the entertainment industry, movies in particular, are recession resistant. When the economy gets bad and people start feeling their wallets grow thinner they seek comfort and escape in the movies. They also gravitate toward the lower cost, lower key form of entertainment. With the movies and gaming industry converging, I guess it’s no surprise to see early indicators that the gaming industry may be similarly resistant to a weakening economy (whether recession or not).
Thursday retail tracking firm NPD released their monthly U.S. gaming sales roundup. The numbers, as is becoming all too common, were good. So far, the economy isn’t affecting the gaming industry at the register.
Overall, total sales, including hardware, software and accessories rose 34 percent versus a year ago hitting $1.33 billion. The number was also up month to month besting the $1.18b in total sales registered in January.
Assessing the performance, NPD‘s analyst Anita Frazier noted “year-to-date sales through February [were also] up 12 percent over last year." Taking into account an extra week of sales included in the 2007 figures that means 2008 ends up approximately 26 percent over last year.
In hardware, Nintendo continued to dominate the field. The DS portable led all sales with 587k units. The Wii, even with continued shortages, finished second (432k units). Filling in the middle, Sony returned to form with the long lived PS2 still holding on and finishing third. The next gen PS3 finished fourth followed by the Xbox 360 and then last, Sony’s PSP portable.
In software, the top seller, reprising its leading role in January and December, was Activision’s Call of Duty 4 for the Xbox 360. In total units, the game sold 296,200 units (versus 331k last month). Activision also took two of the remaining top ten spots with Guitar Hero titles. Electronic Arts only cracked the top ten list with one title, Rock Band, which they jointly publish with MTV Games. It finished tenth.
The hot potato award for the fastest riser of the month went to Capcom’s newly released zombie slasher, Devil May Cry 4. The popular title finished 2nd (Xbox 360) and 4th (PS3) overall, moving more than 525k units despite a week shorter sales period than other titles (do to its release schedule). As of February 20th, in a press release Capcom said the game, along with the prior titles from the franchise, has sold a collective 9 million copies over the life of the franchise.
Adding context, each of the three major console makers took the opportunity to spin the news in their favor shortly after the numbers were released.
For Microsoft, the tagline was success as a platform; consoles plus games. The 4th place finish in console unit sales was labeled a victory because even with supply shortages, the Xbox 360 remained close to its peers (Wii and PS3) in total unit sales. Game sales were also a major talking point with notes point out that six of the top ten bestselling titles were for the Xbox 360 platform.. In sales, Microsoft pointed out, the Xbox 360 sold $184 million in game titles, almost double the PS3’s $97 million software sell through, and well ahead of the Wii’s $130 million.
For Sony, February’s success story was all about hardware. Battling for number two behind the Wii, their buzz machine emphasized this was the second month in a row the PS3 outsold the Xbox 360. There was also the strong showing and remarkable longevity of the prior generation PS2 platform to talk about. For the month, the older console managed to outsell all consoles except the Wii. According to Sony’s PR team, it’s only going to get better for them too. Take Two’s blockbuster title Grand Theft Auto IV is coming soon and the PS3’s long overdue first batch of high profile, exclusive titles are on line for spring (Gran Turismo 5, April 15th) and summer (Metal Gear Solid 4, June 12) releases.
For Nintendo, there wasn’t much need for spin. The held the top spots for both overall unit sales, and top console and top portable. The combined sell through accounted for more than one million units and represented just under half (48 percent) of all hardware sold. In software, four of every ten games sold were for one of the two Nintendo platforms (DS or Wii). In accessories, they sold more than 2.9m across both platforms.
THE FEBRUARY NUMBERS
February Hardware Sales (in units sold) (January Results)
•Nintendo DS: 587,600 (251,000)
•Wii: 432,000 (274,000)
•Play Station 2: 351,800
•PlayStation 3: 280,800 (269,000)
•Xbox 360: 254,600 (230,000)
•PlayStation Portable: 243,100 (230,000)
February Software (Title.(Platform.Publisher) (Units)
1. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare¹ (360, Activision) – 296,200
2. Devil May Cry 4* (360, Capcom) – 295,200
3. Wii Play W/ Remote¹ (Wii, Nintendo) – 289,700
4. Devil May Cry 4¹ (PS3, Capcom) – 233,500
5. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock¹ (Wii, Activision) – 222,900
6. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games (DS, Sega) – 205,600
7. Lost Odyssey (360, Microsoft) – 203,600
8. Turok (360, Touchstone) -197,700
9. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock¹ (PS2, Activisio) – 183,800
10. Rock Band¹ (360, MTV Games, Electronic Arts) – 161,800
¹ These numbers include sale of special edition or bundled versions.
Overall Result (Total > % Change)(Last month’s total)
Video Games: $1.33 billion > 34% ($1.18 billion )
Video Games Hardware: $480.0 million >19% ($378 million)
Video Games Software: $668.7m > 47% ($550 million)
Video Game Accessories: $185.3m >36% ( $191 million)
For comparative data, NPD’s data from each month for the past year can be found by clicking the names of the month as follows:
•EA Takes the Gloves off in Fight for Take Two
•EA and Take Two: Deal Diary
•Activision Earnings, and their Guitar Hero Expansion
•Gaming and Movie Convergence: a retrospective timeline
•Inside the Merger: Activision and Vivendi Games
•How Hot is the Gaming Industry?
•Changing Weather: the Concept and Future of Dynamic Gaming
•Nintendo Earnings Impress: Raise the Bar Higher