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NPD March Results: Gaming Sales Drop Off

Year over year comparisons in the entertainment industry aren’t always the best indicators of performance.  From one year to the next, there can be great variation in the slate of titles, their quality, or their release dates.  A hit one year can make an otherwise good performance the next seem weak.  A schedule change on a key release can make or break a quarter.  Even so, new March sales results released by NPD seem to show the U.S. video game industry’s growth hit a pothole.

Overall for the month of March, he industry was down 17% to total sales of $1.43B.  

Because of a weaker slate of titles comparative to last year, a decline in software sales was somewhat expected.   Unexpected was an 18% decline in hardware too (to $455.5m).  In March, the brakes seemed to be applied everywhere.

NPD’s Anita Frazier speculated some of the result might be because of the timing of Easter.  Last year the holiday fueled March purchases, this year the holiday came in April.  Still, Frazier conceded she thought we’d see “higher unit sales on most platforms.”  That wasn’t the case.

Within the hardware category, all of the products were down sequentially and only one, the Xbox 360, scored a year over year increase in unit sales.

Looking at the segments in more detail: hardware yielded $455.55m in sales. By position, Nintendo was, as usual, tops in the field.  The Wii sold 601k systems and the DS cranked out 563k unit sales. The Xbox 360 finished third with 330k and Sony’s platforms rounded out the list: the PS3 at 218k units and the PSP at 112k.  

In the software category, the month’s overall performance fell off 17 percent to $792.83 million. On a positive note, however, the threshold for entering the software top ten was higher in March. In February, four games with less than 200k unit sales a piece (and three below 150k units) , all ranked. In March, it took 205k unit sales to just make the list.

Capcom, which had a solid month in February with its Street Fighter franchise, again outperformed.  This time it was the company’s Resident Evil installment taking the top honors.  In total, cross-platform, Resident Evil 5 sold just over 1.5m copies.  Its Xbox 360 installment topped the list with 938k and the PS3 version finished fourth.  Street Fighter, strong lin February, didn’t place in March.

The rest of the software top ten list was rounded out with a mix of repeat offenders like Wii Fit and Mario Kart along with a slightly larger handful of new entrants. The titles were evenly distributed by console – three for each.

Nintendo’s Pokemon Platinum for the DS was the sole portable title in the list. It finished second with 805k units sold.  Sony’s Killzone 2 stayed relevant at 7th in the top ten, and baseball entries, MLB ’09 from Sony and Major League Baseball 2K9 from Take Two, well timed for spring, also cracked the top ten.

Accessory sales on the month were down 15% to $185.67M.

Looking at the rMarch  results, by the numbers:

March Hardware Sales (in units sold) (February Result)
• Wii: 601,000 (753,000)
• Nintendo DS: 563,000 (588,000)
• Xbox 360: 330,000 (391,000 )
• PlayStation 3: 218,000 (276,000)
• PlayStation Portable: 168,000 (199,000)

March Software Sales (Title, (Platform, Publisher, – Units), (Last Month’s Position in Top Ten)
1. Resident Evil 5 (Xbox 360, Capcom  - 938K), (N/A)
2. Pokemon Platinum (DS, Nintendo  - 805K), (N/A)
3. Halo Wars (Xbox 360, Microsoft  - 639K), (N/A)
4. Resident Evil 5 (PS3, Capcom,  - 585K), (N/A)
5. Wii Fit w/ Balance Board (Wii, Nintendo  - 541K), (#1)
6. MLB ‘09: The Show (PS3, Sony  - 305K), (N/A)
7. Killzone 2 – (PS3, Sony  - 296K), (#5)
8. Wii Play w/ Remote (Wii, Nintendo  - 281K), (#4)
9. Mario Kart w/ Wheel (Wii, Nintendo  - 278K), (#3)
10. MLB 2K9 (Xbox 360, Take-Two)  - 205K), (N/A)

March, Overall Industry Totals (Total ( % Change Y/Y)(Last month’s total))
Video Games: $1.43B (-17%) ($1.47b)
Video Games Hardware:$ $455.55M (-18%) ($532.7m)
Video Games Software: $ 792.83M( -17%) ($733.5m)
Video Game Accessories: $185.67M ( -15%) ($$207.1m)

For comparative data, NPD’s data from prior reports can be found by clicking the names of the month as follows:
2009: January February
2008: •January  •FebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovember December
2007: •February•March•April•May•June•July•August •September•OctoberNovember December

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