Retail sales of video games tallied just over $9.9 billion in 2004, according to figures released today by industry research firm the NPD Group. That figure, which includes all portable and console hardware, software, and accessories, represents a decline of less than 1 percent when compared with $10 billion in 2003. While dollar sales were down, overall, unit sales were up 4 percent, said the research group.
"Sales remained strong, thanks in large part to the console software, portable game software, and portable game hardware categories, which saw dollar sales percentage increases of 7 percent, 11 percent, and 10 percent, respectively," an NPD statement said.
The biggest trend of note was that portable software sales broke the $1 billion mark for the first time ever, thanks to the introduction of the Nintendo DS. Total software sales "also continued to set new records, with sales exceeding $6.2 billion, an increase of 8 percent in overall sales when compared with $5.8 billion in 2003," NPD said.
For 2004, the research company said, console software, portable game software, and portable game hardware experienced unit sales increases of 8 percent, 13 percent, and 9 percent, respectively.
There were few surprises as to which titles were the top-selling console games for the year. The currently PS2-only Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas led the pack with more than 5.1 million copies sold, followed by the Xbox-exclusive Halo 2 at more than 4.2 million units sold. However, Microsoft's shooter sequel had a halo effect on its predecessor--despite being 3 years old, the original Halo was 2004's ninth best-selling title, shipping in excess of 1.1 million units.
The last year of ESPN and EA's NFL game rivalry saw the latter win by more than a two-to-one margin, with the PS2 Madden NFL 2005 football scoring more than 3.2 million units sold and the PS2 ESPN NFL 2K5 racking up more than 1.5 million copies sold. Interestingly, though, the Xbox Madden NFL 2005 did not break the top 10 best-selling games, while the Xbox ESPN NFL 2K5 did, at more than 1.0 million units.
The top 10 console games of 2004, according to NPD, are listed below. Sales figures are approximate:
1. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2) - 5.1 million
2. Halo 2 (Xbox) - 4.2 million
3. Madden NFL 2005 (PS2) - 3.2 million
4. ESPN NFL 2K5 (PS2) - 1.5 million
5. Need for Speed Underground 2 (PS2) - 1.4 million
6. Pokémon FireRed (with adapter) (GBA) - 1.2 million
7. NBA Live 2005 (PS2) - 1.2 million
8. Spider-Man 2 (PS2) - 1.1 million
9. Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox) - 1.1 million
10. ESPN NFL 2K5 (Xbox)- 1.0 million
However, NPD numbers did not include figures for PC game sales, which were boosted by the release of such high-profile titles as Doom 3, Half-Life 2, and World of Warcraft. NPD will release those figures later in the week. They also did not include game sales in the mobile market, or revenues from online gaming charges such as massively multiplayer online role-playing games subscription charges.