Excluding one-month dips in January and September 2008, the US game industry had until recently enjoyed constant growth since March 2006. That all changed this past March, when the NPD Group reported a 17 percent slide in sales, followed by an identical percentage-point drop in April and an even more precipitous 23 percent decline in May.
Believe it or not, things got worse in June. According to figures released by NPD this afternoon, overall US retail sales of non-PC game software, hardware, and accessories shrank by 31 percent to $1.17 billion, down from $1.7 billion the prior year. The results, the poorest monthly showing since a dramatic 41 percent drop-off in September 2000, were much worse than the 20 percent decline many gloomy analysts were expecting.
"The video games industry realized a significant decline when compared to June 2008, the fourth consecutive month of year-over-year declines," said NPD analyst Anita Fraizer in a statement. "The first half of the year has been tough largely due to comparisons against a stellar first-half performance last year, but still, this level of decline is certainly going to cause some pain and reflection in the industry."
Hardware was particularly hard hit, shrinking 38 percent from $617.25 million in June 2008 to just $382.2 million. The drop was somewhat paradoxical, as sales of the DS--boosted by the popular camera-equipped DSi, released in April--were still robust at 766,500 units. Its success, though, stands in contrast to virtually every other platform's total, including the second-place Wii's 361,700 units. In third was the Xbox 360 with 240,600 units--nearly 76,000 units ahead of bronze medal winner the PlayStation 3 and its 164,700 units. Sony's other two platforms, the PSP and PlayStation 2, took home 163,500 and 152,700 units, respectively.
"The Xbox 360 is the only platform to have realized a unit sales increase over last June," said Frazier. "Year to date, both the 360 and DS have generated an increase in unit sales....While Wii sales are down from last year, the platform is still realizing very strong sales month after month. Compared against historical performance of other systems this far into the console lifecycle, the [Wii's] unit sales performance is still strong."
The year-on-year comparison also ignores the fact that console sales actually increased from this past May. During that period, NPD reported the DS only sold 633,500 units, the Wii 289,500, the 360 175,000, the PS3 131,000, the PS2 117,000, and the PSP just 100,400.
[UPDATE] However, June software sales were down 29 percent year-over-year while also seeing a month-over-month decrease. Top of the list was the Xbox 360 edition of Activision Blizzard's Prototype with 419,900 units. After this story was initially published, NPD confirmed the PS3 edition--which came in 13th--sold 179,200 units, bringing the game's non-PC total to 598,200 units.
In second place was the 360 edition of the still-strong with 338,300 units, followed by the still-active Wii exclusive EA Sports Active (289,100 units). In fourth was another EA Sports Wii game, the Wii MotionPlus-bundled Tiger Woods PGA Tour (272,400 units), with the 360 (260,800 units) and PS3 editions (210,300 units) of Fight Night Round 4 coming in sixth and seventh. Rounding out the list were THQ's Red Faction: Guerilla for the 360 (199,400 units), and the PS3-exclusive Infamous (192,700 units).
Nintendo ceded its first-party dominance of the software top 10, coming only in fifth (Wii Fit, 271,600 units) and eighth (Mario Kart Wii, 202,100 units). Missing was one Wii title that had been a fixture on the chart virtually every month since its December 2006 release--a fact not lost on analysts.
"Wii Play is finally out of the top 10," Electronic Entertainment Design and Research's Jesse Divnich told GameSpot. He remarked that "UFC keeps on ticking" thanks to perfect timing with promotion of July 11's UFC 100 championship. "That Tiger Woods 10 number is also pretty impressive," said Divinch, noting its 180 percent jump over last year's installment was partly because it had longer to sell and was packed in with the Wii MotionPlus.
Unfortunately, Divnich believes some of June's software winners were disappointments. "People were expecting a little bit more out of Prototype," he lamented. "People were expecting more from Fight Night Round 4 as well." On the hardware front, he believes the pain was shared, saying, "Everybody seems to have taken a haircut across the board. No one hardware platform underperformed relative to the others, and no one overperformed as well."
US VIDEO GAMES INDUSTRY - JUNE 2009
Software: $625.79M (-29%)
Hardware: $382.62M (-38%)
Accessories: $158.2M (-22%)
Total Games: $1.17B (-31%)
TOP-SELLING HARDWARE - JUNE 2009
Nintendo DS: 766,500
Xbox 360: 240,600
PlayStation 3: 164,700
PlayStation 2: 152,700
TOP-SELLING SOFTWARE SKUs - JUNE 2009
Title / Publisher / Units**
1) Prototype (X360) / Activision Blizzard / 419,900
2) UFC 2009 Undisputed (X360) / THQ / 338,300
3) EA Sports Active (Wii) / EA / 289,100
4) Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 (Wii) / EA / 272,400
5) Wii Fit w/ Balance Board (Wii) / Nintendo / 271,600
6) Fight Night Round 4 (360) / EA / 260,800
7) Fight Night Round 4 (PS3) / EA / 210,300
8) Mario Kart Wii with Wheel (Wii) / Nintendo / 202,100
9) Red Faction: Guerrilla (X360) / THQ / 199,400
10) Infamous (PS3) / SCEA / 192,700
** = Figures include Collector's Editions and non-hardware bundles.