Remember when January 1, 2008, rolled around and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was hanging around 13,000? Yeah, that was nice. And then, after months of steady decline, October arrived, and stock markets around the world walked hand-in-hand off a cliff.
So how did US gamers react to having the value of their 401(k)s noisily deflate like an unknotted balloon? Surprisingly, they barely batted a lash, according to the NPD Group's measure of October gaming hardware, software, and accessory sales. In sharp contrast to September's negative growth, the NPD reported today that the gaming industry pulled in $1.31 billion in October.
While that figure represents an 18 percent climb from a year ago, NPD analyst Anita Frazier notes that not all segments experienced the boon equally. "The sales results are mixed this month, however," noted Frazier. "The console portion of the market made significant gains at 26 percent across hardware, software and accessories, while the portable side of the market stalled, declining 14 percent. Year-to-date the portable segment of the market is still up 7 percent."
As for those hardware sales, the console and handheld segments brought in $495 million for the month, a 5 percent year over year increase. Nintendo, to the surprise of no one, retained its seat atop both the console and handheld markets. Not wasting any time ramping up to holiday-level sales figures, the Wii made its way into 804,000 more living rooms in October, a tally Frazier said represents the single best month for the console outside of November-December 2007. The Nintendo DS put up respectable numbers of its own, logging 491,000 units sold for the month.
Microsoft's Xbox 360 continued to see a sales bump in relation to price cuts made in September, with the console selling 371,000 units across its three SKUs. "The price reduction on the Xbox 360 is paying dividends at retail as the platform realized a 7 percent unit sales increase over September," said Frazier. "Keeping in mind that September was a five-week month while October had four, the sales pace increased 33 percent."
While it didn't achieve sales on par with its archrival, Sony's PlayStation 3 experienced a win of its own, as unit sales grew 57 percent over October 2007's results. In total, Sony moved 190,000 units of its flagship console, just 3,000 shy of the PSP's 193,000 systems last month. PlayStation 2 sales rounded out the pack with 136,000 units.
The single largest contributor to October's $1.31 billion total haul was software, which landed at the top-end of analysts' estimates at $698 million, a 35 percent increase. Microsoft and Lionhead Studios' Xbox 360-exclusive role-playing game Fable II topped a list of mostly new entrants, selling 790,000 units despite launching toward the end of the month. The critically acclaimed title nearly doubled Nintendo's returning kingpin Wii Fit, which slotted into second place this month with 487,000 units sold.
Of the 4.7 million units shipped worldwide for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC, Bethesda Softworks' Fallout 3 sold 375,000 on Microsoft's console in the US, securing it third place in October's charts. Bethesda's postapocalyptic RPG was followed by the the remaining two titles to chart in both September and October, Nintendo's Mario Kart Wii (290,000 units sold) and Wii Play (282,000 units sold).
THQ may be going through a bout of upheaval, but the internally developed Saints Row 2 is doing its part to keep the publisher upright. The Xbox 360 edition of the game secured the sixth spot in October's retail results, selling 270,000 units. Two PS3 exclusives ran neck-and-neck for the seventh and eighth slots, with Slant Six's online-only multiplayer shooter SOCOM: US Navy SEALS Confrontation outselling Media Molecule's user-generated content paradise Little Big Planet 231,000-to-215,000.
Take-Two's NBA 2K9 was the only basketball sim to chart in October, selling 202,000 units on the Xbox 360 and earning it the ninth slot on the list. EA's all-new survival horror shooter Dead Space snuck into the final spot in October's top 10, thanks to the 193,000 units sold for Microsoft's Xbox 360.
Conspicuously absent from the NPD's October recounting was the seemingly unstoppable rhythm game genre. Activision Blizzard's Guitar Hero World Tour failed to place on the top 10 at all, even if it was available in more than 10 different SKUs. For comparison, when Guitar Hero III went on sale in September 2007, bundles for the game landed in second, third, fourth, and eighth place, with all selling more than 230,000 copies apiece. Also absent were Nintendo's Wii Music, which went on sale October 21, and MTV Games' Rock Band 2, which arrived first on the Xbox 360 in September and followed on the PS3 last month.
Other notable absences include Sony's MotoStorm: Pacific Rift, Take-Two's Midnight Club: Los Angeles, and Ubisoft's Far Cry 2. Of the latter, the publisher said earlier this month that the game had achieved 1 million in sales worldwide.
US VIDEO GAMES INDUSTRY - OCTOBER 2008
Software: $697M (+35%)
Hardware: $495M (+5%)
Accessories: $120M (-8%)
Total Games: $1.31B (18%)
TOP-SELLING HARDWARE - OCTOBER 2008
TOP-SELLING SOFTWARE - OCTOBER 2008
Title / Publisher / Units*
1) Fable II (Xbox 360) / Microsoft / 790,000
2) Wii Fit w/ Balance Board (WII) / Nintendo / 487,000
3) Fallout 3 (Xbox 360) / Bethesda Softworks / 375,000
4) Mario Kart Wii w/ Wheel (WII) / Nintendo / 290,000
5) Wii Play w/ Remote (WII) / Nintendo / 282,000
6) Saints Row 2 (Xbox 360) / THQ / 270,000
7) SOCOM: US Navy SEALs Confrontation (PS3) / Sony / 231,000
8) Little Big Planet (PS3) / Sony / 215,000
9) NBA 2K9 (360) / Take-Two Interactive / 202,000
10) Dead Space (360) / Electronic Arts / 193,000
* Figures include Collector's Editions and non-hardware bundles.