NPD: December sales down 4 percent, 607,000 360s sold

Industry group says December sales weren't as bad as expected; sales of Microsoft's next-gen console slowly speeding up.

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Following last Friday's release of its report for all of 2005, industry-research group NPD has released a more detailed study of the final month of last year. According to the group, game software sales in December 2005 saw a 4 percent year-on-year decline. Games for all current-generation consoles were down, with PlayStation 2 games down 11 percent, GameCube titles off 17 percent, and Xbox titles sinking a whopping 33 percent.

The single-biggest reason for the falloff of Xbox game sales was the introduction of the Xbox 360. Having already sold more than 326,000 units by the end of November, the hard-to-find next-gen console saw another 281,000 ship during December, bringing the total to around 607,000. By contrast, hardware sales of the original Xbox plummeted 60 percent, far ahead--or below, depending how you look at it--of the GameCube's 26 percent slump. But while its current-gen rivals floundered, the PlayStation 2 saw a massive increase in sales, up 48 percent compared to December 2004.

As far as publishers go, the big winner was Midway. The otherwise struggling publisher saw an 84 percent year-on-year increase during December. Analysts cited the release of the critically drubbed Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows and Midway Arcade Treasures for the PSP as the major factors for the spikes, as well as continued strong sales of Blitz: The League.

The second-biggest gainer in December was Activision, who saw a much more modest sales increase of 7 percent thanks to Call of Duty 2 for the Xbox 360, Call of Duty 2: Big Red One, and Tony Hawk's American Wasteland. Activision's archrival, Electronic Arts, saw a much more modest increase of just a single point. However, it still had the month's top game in the form of Madden NFL 2006 for the PS2.

For the rest of the major publishers, December was a cold month indeed. THQ's sales slumped 17 percent year on year, due to a lack of a Pixar film tie-in, which minted money for the publisher. However, strong sales of WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006 helped shore up the company's bottom line.

December also saw Atari's sales decline 38 percent when compared to the previous December. A lack of releases and the underperformance of The Matrix: The Path of Neo meant most of its revenue for the month came from its various Dragon Ball Z games.

Less lucky was Take-Two Interactive, which saw its sales sink 43 percent versus its sales in December 2004--which saw Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas still ruling the charts. Although the company had three Xbox 360 launch titles, its top game for the month was Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories for the PSP.

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