Japanese game market shrinks 24% in 1H '09 - Report

Enterbrain figures reveal hardware, software demand drops by one quarter; DS leads portables, Wii top console through June.

The Wii has been a market-leading juggernaut from the moment it launched in late 2006, with sales of the console for literally years in multiple regions hampered only by Nintendo's inability to keep up with demand. However, 2009 has been a different story for Nintendo, with PlayStation 3 sales surpassing those of the Wii on a monthly basis for the first time in March and president Satoru Iwata saying his company's console is in an "unhealthy condition."

Mario & Luigi RPG 3!!! isn't lacking in enthusiasm.

Nintendo's struggle is indicative of the greater gaming market in Japan. Citing figures provided by Japanese stat-tracking firm Enterbrain, IT Media reports that industry sales had fallen to ¥218.9 billion ($2.3 billion) in Nintendo and Sony's home nation from December 29, 2008 to June 28, 2009, a year-over-year decline of 24.4 percent. Delineated further, IT Media reports hardware sales were down 27.6 percent during the period, with software slipping 21.8 percent.

As noted by the Japanese technology news site, a primary indicator of the industry's weakness is the lack of million-unit sellers during the first half of 2009. Conversely, the site notes, the first half of 2008 saw the release of four million-unit sellers, including Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii and Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G for the PSP.

In the first half of 2009, the top performer was Mario & Luigi RPG3!!! for the DS with 650,000 units, according to Enterbrain's figures, followed by Capcom's Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G, Sega's Yakuza 3 for the PS3, the PS3 edition of Capcom's Resident Evil 5 (known as Biohazard 5 in Japan), and Nintendo's Wii Fit.

As for hardware, the DSi and DS Lite reportedly combined to sell 1.62 million units during the first half of the year in Japan, followed by 1.18 million units for the PSP. Console sales were significantly weaker, with the Wii selling 640,000 units, the PS3 at 550,000 systems, and the Xbox 360 taking the rear with 210,000 machines.

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