Last year was a record-breaking one for the game industry. In the US alone, total industry sales of hardware, software, and accessories peaked at $21.3 billion, a substantial 19 percent uptick from 2007, according to the NPD Group. Although all tracked revenue streams saw double-digit growth on the year, software sales enjoyed the biggest gains in 2008, with game revenue amounting to $32 billion globally, according to Media Control GfK International.
Adding a shade more color to game software's banner 2008, Top Global Markets--a joint venture combining retail data from NPD, GfK, and Enterbrain--released its list of the top five best-selling games in the world for the year. Unsurprisingly to anyone who's kept apace of game-industry happenings, Nintendo's Wii-exclusive first-party games reigned supreme in Top Global Markets' cross-platform accounting of total sales.
Nintendo's Mario Kart Wii sped its way to the top slot in the 2008 global chart, logging total sales of 8.94 million units. The pint-sized plumber's go-kart outing barely had the edge on the Balance Board-equipped Wii Fit, which sold 8.31 million copies. Rounding out the top three, Take-Two and Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto IV, which launched for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 alongside Mario Kart Wii in late April, sold 7.29 million units globally.
Also an early-year Wii release, Nintendo's fantasy fighter Super Smash Bros. Brawl took fourth in Top Global Markets' list, shifting 6.32 million units. Though it was unable to repeat the success of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare's 7 million global units sold in 2007, Call of Duty: World at War placed a respectable fifth, selling 5.89 million units. The game's cross-region performance was undoubtedly hampered by the jarring goose egg that it logged in Japan, where it has not been released.
In all, Top Global Markets reports that global software sales grew 11 percent in 2008, leaping from 367.7 million units in 2007 to 409.9 million. Growth primarily came from the US and UK, which saw respective gains of 15 percent and 26 percent. However, Japan faired far worse, with the island nation seeing a 13 percent slip in 2008, thanks largely to a weakening in legacy software sales for platforms such as the PlayStation 2.
"UK console video game software units are more than double what was achieved in 2003, which just shows how fast the UK market has been growing," commented Dorian Bloch, business group director at GfK. "Because of this amazing growth and coupled with the [downturn] currently being experienced in Japan, the UK market has for the first time overtaken Japan as the No. 2 world market. Although still behind on revenue, the gap has narrowed considerably, and it will be interesting to see how things develop during 2009."
TOP GLOBAL MARKET'S 2008 GLOBAL SOFTWARE SALES
1) Mario Kart Wii / Nintendo / 8.94M / 5M / 2M / 1.94M
2) Wii Fit / Nintendo / 8.31M / 4.55M / 2.15M / 1.61M
3) Grand Theft Auto IV / Take-Two / 7.29M / 5.18M / 256K / 1.85M
4) Super Smash Bros. Brawl / Nintendo / 6.32M / 4.17M / 1.75M / 404K
5) Call of Duty: World at War / Activision Blizzard / 5.89M / 4.46M / 0 / 1.43M