The industry-tracking NPD Group released its US retail sales figures for the month of May today, and the numbers fell more or less in line with analyst expectations. Combined domestic sales of non-PC game software, hardware, and accessories suffered year-over-year decreases for the third straight month, as the research firm reported a haul of $863.3 million last month--down 23 percent from May 2008's $1.12 billion.
Hardware sales suffered the steepest decline, dropping 30 percent to $302.5 million for the month. Nintendo's DS handheld, bolstered by the recent launch of the camera-enabled DSi, managed to sell a strong 633,500 systems, but all other platforms were down sharply from the previous year. Where the Wii racked up 675,100 units sold for May 2008, last month's tally was a relatively meager 289,500. Even so, the total was enough to push the Wii's lifetime-to-date US sales above the 20 million milestone, according to Nintendo.
Despite the decline in Wii sales, Nintendo's console was the second best-selling platform for the month, as the Xbox 360 sold 175,000 units, the PlayStation 3 moved 131,000, and the PSP barely broke 100,000. The newly $99 PlayStation 2 actually surpassed its handheld counterpart for the month, selling 117,000 systems for the month.
Electronic Entertainment Design and Research analyst Jesse Divnich told GameSpot it was the Wii's worst sales month since January of 2008, when Nintendo was hamstrung by supply constraints. Even so, Divnich wasn't overly concerned about the system.
"When you look at the Wii number, it's bad on an absolute basis, but relative to the PS3 and 360, Nintendo is still matching them combined," Divnich said. "I think the biggest concern is just the hardware market in general. We're due for a round of price cuts, and I think all three manufacturers have reached saturation at current price points."
Software fared better, posting a 17 percent year-over-year drop to $448.9 million, down from $540 million. THQ's UFC Undisputed was the clear success story of the month, selling 679,600 copies on the Xbox 360 and another 334,400 on the PS3 to put its combined tally above the 1 million mark. Wii Fit maintained its stranglehold atop the nontraditional games genre with 352,800 sold, but new competitor EA Sports Active was close on its heels with 345,800 sold. Other high-profile debuts included Infamous in fifth place with 175,900 sold, and Punch-Out!, which moved 156,900 copies, enough to put it in eighth place.
While UFC took home the sales title, Divnich called special attention to this month's top runners-up, Wii Fit and EA Sports Active. Any game that targets the mainstream will have longer legs at retail, he said, so gamers should get used to seeing these sorts of titles on the charts.
"I think the fitness category is here to say as long as additional substance can be added on a regular basis," Divnich said. "But you just can't release a similar fitness title and expect the same numbers. Each new title has to be innovative. You need a gimmick."
Despite the down sales figures, NPD analyst Anita Frazier was guardedly optimistic in her assessment of next month's sales prospects.
"Looking ahead to June, there are some promising games coming out this month between Sims 3 (PC), Prototype, Red Faction, Virtua Tennis, Ghostbusters, Transformers, and Tiger Woods just to name a few," Frazier said. "At E3, it was notable how many games were targeted to the 'tween' girl demographic, and this June will see a number of games introduced for girls as well. June comparisons are still likely to be tough, but the wide variety of new content could help reinvigorate things somewhat."
US VIDEO GAMES INDUSTRY - MAY 2009
Software: $448.9M (-17%)
Hardware: $302.5M (-30%)
Accessories: $122.0M (-25%)
Total Games: $863.3M (-23%)
TOP-SELLING HARDWARE - MAY 2009
Nintendo DS: 633,500
Xbox 360: 175,000
PlayStation 3: 131,000
PlayStation 2: 117,000
TOP-SELLING SOFTWARE SKUs - MAY 2009
Title / Publisher / Units**
1) UFC 2009 Undisputed (X360) / THQ / 679,600
2) Wii Fit w/ Balance Board (Wii) / Nintendo / 352,800
3) EA Sports Active (Wii) / EA / 345,800
4) UFC 2009 Undisputed (PS3) / THQ / 334,400
5) Infamous (PS3) / SCEA / 175,900
6) Pokemon Platinum (DS) / Nintendo / 168,900
7) Mario Kart Wii with Wheel (Wii) / Nintendo / 158,300
8) Punch-Out!! (Wii) / Nintendo / 156,900
9) X-Men Origins: Wolverine (X360) / Activision Blizzard / 120,700
10) Wii Play w/ Remote (Wii) / Nintendo / 109,800
** = Figures include Collector's Editions and non-hardware bundles.