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Gaming Surges Further Ahead: NPD March Data

game dataHow hot is the domestic video game market?  According to NPD’s monthly gaming round up, which was released Thursday, as hot as ever.  It fact, it may be nearing molten.

Overall, for March, total sales, including hardware, software and accessories rose 57 percent versus a year ago hitting $1.7 billion.  The number was also up month to month besting the $1.33 billion in total sales registered in February

Software sales, in particular, were outstanding with a monthly return of $945.6 billion, a 63 percent annual gain and well ahead of both January and February results.  Some comparative numbers shows just how staggering the number is. According to data from Home Media Retailing, combined movie rentals for the top ten movie titles in March generated approximately $270 million at the registers.  Domestic film box offices grosses for the same period were $567.2m (via Box office Mojo).  The $945.6m in video game software sales beat the two combined.

“You’d never know that the U.S. economy was under distress by looking at the video game industry sales figures,” NPD analyst Anita Frazier wrote in a statement. With year over year growth showing at 27 percent, she seems right on.

Breaking down the subsets: in hardware, yet again Nintendo dominated the field.  In consoles, the Wii moved 721k units, a nose ahead of a second place overall from their portable DS (698k).  unit sales Finishing third, but with less than half the unit sales of either the Wii or DS was Sony’s PSP.  The portable climbed up over the field after a poor showing in February.   Rounding things out, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 was in the middle with a slight monthly improvement.  Sony’s consoles, both the PS3 and PS3, finished in the bottom slots – both the only hardware products off in month to month sales totals.

In software, Nintendo took the top slot with a staggering opening result for Super Smash Brothers Brawl. The new title moved 2.7million units, nearly two million ahead of the number two seller.  Activision’s Call of Duty 4, which led in January,  December, and February, dropped to 9th.   That fall won’t likely cause much concern though.  According to an analysis of the NPD figures compiled by Activision’s Infinity Ward studio, the game has sold over 9 Million copies worldwide since its release in November.

category salesAnother bigger story with the software top ten list is the age of the titles that made the cut.   Unlike past months, where older titles and established franchises dominated, March was about new releases.  All of the top three titles were released during the month.  Out of the total, in fact, only three titles, Wii Play with Remote (#4), Guitar Hero III for the Wii (#7) and Call of Duty 4 (#9) were repeats.  Everything else was new.  That near billion dollars sales tally was driven by new titles in a non-holiday shopping season.  That is noteworthy. 

As usual with the monthly NPD report, spin doctors from all three console makers were quick to interpret selections of the data and fire off related press releases and emails that characterized their products as the monthly winner.

For Microsoft, the spin amounted to product life cycle calculations.  It’s not about finishing fourth in hardware sales, or second among consoles, they said.  In their words, “Consumers continue to make the ultimate vote for the Xbox 360 as the console of choice.”  It is a success evidenced by leading total spending over the consoles lifecycle ($9.4b for the Xbox 360).  (Of course, with different release dates and product lifespans, it is hard to give a lot of weight to such analysis).

For Sony, a highlight of the month was solid growth for the PSP platform.  Unfortunately, it’s also offset by slightly decreased month to month total unit sales on both the PS3 and PS2.  Still, even being the caboose on the monthly hardware list isn’t a problem for spinners.  As Sony’s reps put it, they showed an impressive 98% sales growth year over year. That’s the bigger story they’re selling: they’re better off than last year (even though the same can be said for the whole industry).

For Nintendo, as has been the case, it was another dominating month. Total hardware sales were more than 1.4million units and three of the top ten software titles were for the Wii (including number one).  All those top finishes left little need for spin but there was some gloating.  Nintendo claimed to be defining the industry and driving its momentum.

March Hardware Sales (in units sold) (February Results)
• Wii: 721,000 (432,000)
• Nintendo DS:  698,000 (587,600)
• PlayStation Portable: 297,000 (243,100)
• Xbox 360: 262,000 (254,600)
• PlayStation 3: 257,000 (280,800)
• PlayStation 2: 216,000 (351,800)

March  Software (Title.(Platform.Publisher) (Units)
1. Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii, Nintendo) – 2,700,000
2.  Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2¹ (360, Ubisoft) – 752,300
3. Army of Two (360, Electronic Arts) 606,000
4. Wii Play w/ Remote¹ (Wii, Nintendo) 409,000
5. God of War: Chains of Olympus (PSP, Sony) 340,500
6. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (PSP, Square Enix) 301,600
7. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (Wii, Activision) 264,100
8. MLB 2K8 (360,Take-Two Interactive) 237,100
9. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare¹ (360, Activision) 237,000
10. Army of Two (PS3, Electronic Arts) 224,900
¹ These numbers include sale of special edition, limited edition or bundled version.

Overall Industry Totals (Total ( % Change)(Last month’s total))
Video Games: $1.7 billion (+57%) (+57%) ($1.33 billion)
Video Games Hardware: $551.3m (+46%) ($480.0 million)
Video Games Software: $945.6m (+63%)  ($668.7m)
Video Game Accessories: $220m (+58%) ( $185.3m)

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:
2008: •January  •February
2007: •February •March •April •May •June •July •August •September •OctoberNovember December


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