December game sales tank 21% - NPD

Hardware revenues drop 28 percent year-over-year; software sales slide 14 percent with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 topping the charts.

The US retail gaming industry has had a rough go of it in recent years, but the fourth quarter of 2011 was shaping up well. Battlefield 3 and Batman: Arkham City helped push October's retail revenues into positive territory, and the Call of Duty juggernaut's annual deployment the following month did its usual record-setting thing, leading to the best November sales ever for the industry. Today the NPD Group released its US retail sales data for December, dismissing any notions that the industry's economic recovery would be smooth sailing from here on out.

The Call of Duty series continued its years-long assault on the software sales charts in December.

Last month, retailers in the US pulled in $3.99 billion in sales, according to the NPD Group. That's a 21 percent dip from the $5.07 billion posted for December of 2010. No segment of the industry took as proportionately big a dip as hardware sales, which shrank 28 percent year-over-year to $1.32 billion. Accessory sales were down 27 percent to $628.7 million, while software sales were as close to a bright spot as the month's numbers yielded, down just 14 percent to $2.04 billion.

"December was very rough for new physical sales of video games hardware, software and accessories," NPD analyst Anita Frazier said in a note following the numbers' release. "Because of the great slate of content that came to market during the fourth quarter, I had expected December sales to represent a larger portion of total year sales than what occurred. This year, December accounted for just 23 percent of annual sales, while the average for the past ten years has been 28."

As for which games sold well, the winners' podium featured three distinctly different games covering a wide swath of gamers. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 topped the charts, followed by Ubisoft's Just Dance 3 and Bethesda's Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. As for other notable games that didn't make the top 10 multiplatform chart, the NPD said that Activision's Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure would have finished fourth overall in December if its ancillary action-figure packs--currently counted as accessory sales--had been folded into its software sales total. Meanwhile, the PC-exclusive Star Wars: The Old Republic finished 14th overall on the multiplatform charts, and the Wii-exclusive The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was the 10th-best-selling single SKU for the month of December.

DECEMBER 2011 US GAME SALES (Oct. 30 - Nov. 26)
OVERALL DOLLAR SALES
Total retail sales: $3.99 billion (-21%)
Non-PC hardware: $1.32 billion (-28%)
Non-PC software: $2.04 billion (-14%)
Accessories: $628.7 million (-27%)
Total software: $2.14 billion (-15%)

TOP 10 GAMES FOR DECEMBER 2011
Title (Platforms) - Publisher
1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (X360, PS3, PC) - Activision
2. Just Dance 3 (Wii, X360) - Ubisoft
3. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (X360, PS3, PC) - Bethesda Softworks
4. Mario Kart 7 (3DS) - Nintendo
5. Battlefield 3 (X360, PS3, PC) - EA
6. Madden NFL 12 (X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP) - EA
7. Assassin's Creed: Revelations (X360, PS3, PC) - Ubisoft
8. NBA 2K12 (X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, Wii) - Take-Two
9. Super Mario 3D Land (3DS) - Nintendo
10. Batman: Arkham City (X360, PS3, PC) - Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

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Discussion

118 comments
UltraredM
UltraredM

I'm glad to hear that Bethesda is raking in the revenue with Skyrim; they deserve every penny. I hope they make good use of it with Fallout 4 and Elder Scrolls VI.

Sha88
Sha88

I'm with Kravyn81.... That would be a very good NOTE. Thou they did mention "physical sales." I'd rather have a hard copy of a game. Thou when nearly every PC game requires steam regardless, it just seems less worth it. Was one of the few at gamestop buying a copy of Skyrim for PC. More mods for me when ever the game gets boring:).

Kravyn81
Kravyn81

It should be NOTED in the article that the NPD include sales from download services like Steam.

Hurvl
Hurvl

Total software: $2.14 billion Non-PC software: $2.04 billion If you do the math, the PC software comes out at $0,1 billion, which either means that PC gaming is dead or that their numbers concerning PC software are not accurate. It's good to see Skyrim at no. 3 and BF3 and no. 5 though.

RAGEofSTUNTS
RAGEofSTUNTS

Did they include the downloadable games in this or just hard copies?

twizzickle
twizzickle

Like if Angry Birds outsold Call of Duty by number of units, would it be on this report?

twizzickle
twizzickle

Do these sales factor in online pc sales or virtual market space sales from all consumer electronics? I've got a huge gut feeling that market sales aren't really diminishing, just changing. I would bet that this article is null and void and people just don't know how to track game sales anymore.

setuwa
setuwa

@Oldboy 08 when you say "we don't have a choice" and "what are we supposed to do here?" I find that quite humorous because you do have a choice you can simply not play the game, I know shocking right. Its like you need to play it and if you don't your life is over. your still going to spend a lot of money even if its only a couple of games. You are either going to have to accept it or just not play it at all. Renting doesn't do much justice either since the subscription costs will start to accumulate, maybe not as much as buying but its still going to make a dent in your wallet.

wiidsduelpack
wiidsduelpack

Analysts were saying (GDP wise) that sales were too high in Black Friday and sales were going to tank in December. Could be the economy but I also saw the same franchises in the top ten. Perhaps if there were more I.P's

Oldboy08
Oldboy08

@setuwa and I just play a handful of PS3 games. I love video games, I am not gonna stop playing them or buying them because of the high costs, I am just going to have to limit how many buy and do a good amount of research before I buy a game so that I will not be disappointed. I just wish I could rent games here. You can rent Movies, CDs, Manga, but not games...so weird. But I guess if you could rent games then they would have to lower the price of games being sold.

setuwa
setuwa

@Oldboy08 yes if you have to pay an ungodly amount just to play a video game then I don't see why its worth it. That's why I cut down my gaming to the bare minimum. Gaming just costs too much money nowadays with subscription services and accessories, that's why I just play only a handful of computer games like swtor.

tahashaikh15
tahashaikh15

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Oldboy08
Oldboy08

@Japanese_Jade Well...in JAPAN. You cannot rent games. I wish you could, I really wish you could, but you can't, so what are we supposed to do here? We don't have a choice, its buy it, or don't ever get a chance to play it. It also sucks that most games are priced over $60 with the exchange rate, some games can get up to $100 for the regular edition. For example, I bought BF3 for close to $90. Should I just have not got the game?

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

@blackace Yeah I am using the UK Gamespot that's the whole issue :? Pretty much every article on this website is just directed back to the main one. It's quite often USA or nothing.

Harkster1
Harkster1

Yes Non-PC hardware is dropping in total revenue. I guess this is because 1. Most people who wanted it have it by now. 2. They have been out how many years now? It is old tech at this point. 3. PC's Rule

VarietyMage
VarietyMage

Maybe if they put out more decent games, sales would pick up. Skyrim and Disgaea 4 were the only games I picked up in Q4 2011. I'm still waiting for STALKER 2, KOTOR 3 (non-MMO), Diablo 3, GTA 5, Minecraft (retail box), Twisted Metal (4?), Persona 5, Mass Effect 3, SimCity 5, Borderlands 2, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars 2, Unreal Tournament 4, Sins of a Solar Empire 2, and a whole slew of other titles as-yet unreleased. The industry could have put a few more of them out at Christmas, but they didn't, and so sales sucked because I won't buy games I won't play. Oh well, their loss.

tahashaikh15
tahashaikh15

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

KrazzyDJ
KrazzyDJ

These billion dollar sales figures in such recessive times should itself be something for the gaming industry to feel proud of !!!

Jimi_13
Jimi_13

Maybe all the game regulations they have these days, pay for online, can't sell your used games because of their grip on the online codes, has hurt their sales. Not to mention it's all violence, maybe people are sick of it.

dimplus
dimplus

@nyran125 it says 3.99 billion in sales, not in profit. Also it says at retail so it is ESPECIALLY not a 3 billion profit. It's what money was collected by stores/webstores form consumers, that is quite something different. in general it is a bit of a standard issue that certain people start shouting about the 'ridiculous profits' all those big ass companies make on 'us the consumer', as soon as the $ sign is in a text . If they wouldn't make profits, they would not be risking that much money to create those huge games (of which quite a number don't turn in a penny in the end due to the high break-even levels). And in the end, these ARE companies and they need to earn money, just like the company you work at.

danchambos
danchambos

you can only sell so many consoles until your forced to make plenty of awesome games. focus on making awesome games!

blackace
blackace

Where's Uncharted 3? lol!! ************************************************************* @SamiRDuran console gaming dying confirmed? -------------------------------------------------------------- I don't think so. I don't see any PC exclusives on that list above either. Sales were down on all platforms. ****************************************************** @warhawk-geeby Here's an idea Gamespot, how about you cover Global sales every now and again and not just that of America? ---------------------------------------------------------------- Probably because this is an American website. Why don't you try their UK site? http://uk.gamespot.com/ Complain to them over there.

nyran125
nyran125

lol this has nothing to do with call of duty this article..this is about a website clearly stating sales drops...from 5 billion to 3 billion... OH NO THEY STILL ONLY hAVE 3 billion dollars profit a year what a friggin pity. Forget the call of duty hate, how bout im sick to death of hearing rich companies cry over 3 billion dollars being a loss of anything.

risako9
risako9

Skyrim??!!! 3rd in a span of 2 months? That's just.. XDD

dxBIGBOSSxb
dxBIGBOSSxb

@Gelugon_baat O_o That was a shockingly fast response... hmm. Out of all the posts I've read from you I never actually had a conversation until now. I feel the need to revel in the internet moment... 3... 2... 1... done. Welp that lists most common site posters. I believe I'm only missing Inka_Rob I think his name is... wait no I spoke with him too, angry guy but he makes a good point.

dxBIGBOSSxb
dxBIGBOSSxb

@Gelugon_baat Yeah, maybe I was just in a bad mood when I wrote that, but in all honesty, neither I nor anybody else probably gives a f*** about these sales figures anymore. I'm tires of every 3 days there is news about either CoD, Modern Warfare, Activision, CoD DLC, CoD Elite, or Infinityward and their sales. Likr I said, I must have read about 20+ posts about CoD sales, and even though this post is just listing total game sale statistics, they STILL manage to make CoD the focus. They even have CoD's review video posted. What does that say about this fanboy "professional" review site?... I guess I'm still in a bad mood, and CoD seriously isn't making it better. It's like watching "Jersey Shore", there is too much stupid, nonsensical garbage to keep track of.

Spartan_418
Spartan_418

@Link3301 Actually yes, you're right! I absolutely do think the Kinect is a cheap piece of junk, every bit as much as the 3DS, and for largely the same reasons. Aside from cheap manufacturing costs, the cameras on the Kinect are limited to a resolution of just 320 x 240; you can't get any kind of real precision out of that. If you were to tape together a pair of 2004-era cellphone cameras and add a simple infrared sensor, you would basically have a Kinect right there. Might be part of the reason we haven't seen any truly compelling hardcore games for the thing.

Infinity_Gauntl
Infinity_Gauntl

@nyran125 Yeah you should be enraged over CHINA!!! not the wages. China is the problem!

airshocker
airshocker

@nyran125 You know what's truly ridiculous? The rage you have against the corporations when it's CHINA that's at fault. I know, it blows your mind. How about you start trying to change THAT system before you complain about the corporations that really have no say in what China does?

jagdedge124
jagdedge124

The games have just stagnated to the point they're just garbage as compared to even prior made games. The heyday of Bad Company 1 and BF 43, great games have stagnated to absolute trash with the crappy graphics and gameplay that seems to get worse as years go on. NBA 2K11 gave me hope in the sports genre given EA's ruining of their Sports Franchise games with the exception of FIFA.....but then came the 2k12 fail. Call of duty never changes for better or worse, but no matter what i think of that franchise, they seem to "get it" as far as not changing what seems to them to be a good thing at least as far as sales. Honestly, Skyrim is the only good buy as of now on Xbox, and the only thing that gives me any hope that current consoles will remain alive. The fact is though, it's been years since the last Elder Scrolls, and that company put in alot of money and work. These other companies look to put out a cheap made product as far as the game itself, and rather put their monies towards hype and advertising. Well, you could hype up a piece of trash all you want. It won't be long before people see it is for what it is....trash.

siddarthshetty
siddarthshetty

I am sure I won't play games like Just Dance even if someone gifts me..

luc11044
luc11044

The solution is simple...time to come out with new consoles. :)

max_1111
max_1111

@Link3301 ...but Kinect IS a piece of crap. HAHAH

dmdavenport
dmdavenport

I'm not buying any new hardware until the new consoles come out. And they better have 3D capability. You listen'n Microsoft?

916supermann22
916supermann22

Well...all the good releases were in november right? I bought Skyrim, Skyward Sword, and battlefield 3 on Black Friday (even though that came out in October right?). My Wife also bought me Arkham City in November as well. Even though December has Xmas, everything good is released the month before and if parents want to get early xmas shopping done then it would make sense to do it in November. Also, November has Black Friday and if you play it right you can end up getting new games with a huge price drop (I got Battlefield 3 for $8 due to amazon offering it up cheap and a $20 credit i had). If I'm gonna buy a game I'll do it in November, and I'll be satisfied enough not to purchase anything in December. (EDIT) All my purchases were new too, not used even though I prefer going used Fall 2011 was to awesome to wait.

TerrorRizzing
TerrorRizzing

@ Japanese_Jade so many of the best games dont sell well, or dont make nearly as much as lets say a call of duty clone.

TerrorRizzing
TerrorRizzing

used games, and a dramatic increase in dd on pc. Also it seem alot of pc gamers that switched to console have switched back.

CamRaiD
CamRaiD

Give me moooore skyrim content. I want another 3 expansions please!!!!!

Japanese_Jade
Japanese_Jade

@Insane00 I believe we do agree as well. As more open minded gamers, we are out weighed (out voted) by casual gamers who enjoy generic FPS and online multiplayer games. Good games still exist, I just feel more publishers & studios follow the example of mainstream games (being shooters) because of its popularity. And because "CoD like" popularity is so extreme, they could half ass their production and increase revenue with yearly releases & DLC (gaining more votes).

If only more studios would follow Bethesda's, Valve's, even Kojima Productions' example for game development and production. It should be obvious but "Great Games = Great Sales". More originality, less of the same thing. :)

mr_squibble
mr_squibble

I did my part by purchasing Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land in December 2011. It's very atypical that I purchase even one of the top ten games in any given month, let alone two. But I got them both for $60 total, which is the same as just one copy of most of these other games. If Zelda is the 10th best-selling SKU for december 2011 as the article says, why is Batman on the list at #10?

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

@superivanho Yeah I've noticed that trend.. It's just with the title being: 'December game sales tank 21% - NPD' I was expecting something a bit more informative. I thought it would be referring to global sales, but it's not. It would just be nice to see figures from other countries from time to time. They do report on Japan now and again, but generally only if something remarkable occurs, or if something bad happens to Sony.. (obviously). Never mind. I'll stay shum :P

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

Last year at this time, there were several Wii titles in the top 10. Year before, same thing. This isn't about blame, but this "sales tank" is all the Wii's fault.

Insane00
Insane00

@Japanese_Jade Then I feel we agree. I don't have a problem with shooters, I just don't have the urge for online multiplayer and a 4 hour campaign isn't worth it for me. I also agree that the genre needs to move forward consistently. But as so many have said money is why these games get made, and they make ALOT of money. It is indeed the trend and more dollar votes go to the shooter market than any other. I am pleased with Skyrim's success, just as I like it when BW games do well for they encourage others to do more and do things differently. However, as long as CoD stands on the top of the pile we will continue to get bland, short lived, shooters pumped into the market.

Pyrosa
Pyrosa

Agreed -- most people have the current-gen HW, and all the big releases were in Oct-Nov. Samirduran -- Console Gaming sales numbers DECIMATE PC gaming numbers, even in the worst conditions. ...and that's coming from a life-long owner of both. It's just a fact.

ddelella
ddelella

This doesn't sound unreasonable. By now most people have the hardware they want. Controllers are overpriced, music games are stagnant right now, and most of the other accessories are pretty lame. There was no major game releases, just sales for Christmas. Most people who have the big games (Battlefield, COD, GoW, etc) are still playing them so there is no need to buy any more games unless there was really good sales. I would expect hardware to continue to decline unless makers can devise a new business strategy.

fadersdream
fadersdream

Nothing released all year, then everything released at the same time and forced to compete with one another. Of course sales suck.

raahsnavj
raahsnavj

@nyran125 - if they are going to pay them more, they might as well move the jobs back to a country with work standards instead. But it isn't about the people, it is about the profit margin. Everyone that manufactures in China are doing it for the same reason... with probably the same work conditions.

raahsnavj
raahsnavj

I would remind them that we only have so much money. It doesn't matter if you put out all your stuff in December, we can't buy it in December - we only have so much money. So we buy the top 1 or 2 games and the rest get shelved, typically until they have dropped in price as well. The gaming industry needs to pace their games - less games more often is better than a lot of games in Q4. Oh well, at least this way I get a discount when I get around to my 2nd and 3rd string picks for games so maybe I shouldn't be complaining. Keep it up industry!