NPD: Madden flattens August sales

EA's gridiron game leads sales, but overall numbers steady with last year's.

Industry analysts have dissected software sales numbers for August from sales-trackers NPD Group, and it's the same numbers, different year.

August software sales for 2005 tallied $338 million, consistent with 2004's numbers of $337 million for the same month. (Editor's Note: Analysts say NPD retracted its figures, due to a possible issue with its sales database, but numbers aren't expected to deviate significantly. All analyst memos today acknowldged that updated figures are likely due from NPD next week.) Sales were up 7 percent sequentially from July, and year-to-date sales are up 9 percent: from $2.77 billion in '04 to $3.02 billion this year.

Electronic Arts' Madden NFL 06, as expected, was the top-selling game for the month, leading sales on all current-generation console platforms. According to Wedbush Morgan Securities, the game sold approximately 2.5 million units, compared to 2.1 million sold over the same period last year of Madden NFL 2005.

Along with the continued success of July's top seller, NCAA Football 06, Madden helped its publisher to a 43.1 percent share of August's market, up sequentially from a 26.8 percent share in the previous month.

Nintendo grabbed the second-highest market share for August, dominating its specialty, the portable market. Handhelds were paced by Nintendogs, which was released in three editions. The three editions placed in second, third, and fifth in the handhelds chart. Chart mainstay Pokémon Emerald for the Game Boy Advance, released in April, was the top-selling handheld game for August.

Aside from Atari's slight increase, Activision, THQ, Take-Two, Majesco, and Midway all saw decreases month-to-month in console software sales. Activision, which saw no major releases for the period, slipped the most, seeing sales fall from $26 million to $15 million sequentially.

Only three games eclipsed the 100,000-units-sold marker (compared to seven from August '04), but the top 10 games were responsible for 38 percent of the dollar sales and 27 percent of the unit sales, versus 25 percent and 17 percent in July. Though unit sales were down 6 percent from August 2004, the average selling price for games was up 7 percent, from $30.45 to $32.53.

Analysts at Wedbush Morgan see the slight increase in sales continuing. "Console software sales year-to-date are ahead of last year by 9%, and we expect average sales growth over the rest of the year at this rate. We expect sales growth to turn negative over the next two months, as the industry faces relatively difficult comparisons, and turn positive in November and December, when comparisons are relatively easy."

Analysts at the firm see September's console software sales paced by Activision's Ultimate Spider-Man, EA's NBA Live 06, and Take-Two's NBA 2K6. They do not foresee any strong market reaction, as all companies performed generally to expectation.

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