NPD: US April game revs spike on GTAIV

Rockstar's latest sells 2.85M, pushing total industry growth in April to 47 percent.

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With the Grand Theft Auto IV launch at the end of April, there was little doubt that the month's game industry sales would be up in a big way. The stat-tracking NPD Group today released its snapshot of US retail sales, and it showed that total industry sales were up 40 percent year-over-year, with Rockstar's latest responsible for 2.85 million copies sold on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in its first five days of release.

Between software, hardware, and accessories, US stores sold $1.23 billion worth of gaming goods last month, up from $838.6 million in April 2007. Software saw the biggest gains, racking up $654.7 million in sales for the month, up 68 percent from the previous year.

GTAIV was the strongest multiplatform seller, but another of the month's new releases, Mario Kart Wii, actually came in second on the software sales charts. With 1.12 million copies tallied, Mario Kart Wii outsold the PS3 edition of GTAIV (1 million sold), but fell shy of the Xbox 360 edition's 1.85 million copies. Although it was beaten out by Mario Kart Wii, the third-place finish on the sales charts for the PS3 edition of GTAIV is the best yet for a game on Sony's latest console. Other strong new releases included the retail edition of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue (copies of the game sold through the PlayStation Network's online store were not tracked by NPD) and Nintendo's latest Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games for the DS.

In a statement accompanying the release of the figures, NPD analyst Anita Frazier made special note of the top three sellers and called Nintendo's release of Mario Kart Wii in advance of GTAIV "a classic example of counter-programming."

"It's unusual for three games to exceed the 1-million mark in a nonholiday month, which just goes to prove that great content can succeed regardless of when it is launched," Frazier said.

Though each of the top three games surpassed their counterparts from the March sales charts, there was a more significant drop-off in units sold further down the charts. In March, the 10th best-selling game was Army of Two for the PS3, with 224,900 copies sold. For April, a mere 141,000 sold was enough to get the Xbox 360 edition of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in the 10 spot.

On the hardware side, not even GTAIV could boost sales for the PS3 and Xbox 360. Both systems sold significantly fewer machines in April than they had in March, with the Xbox 360 and PS3 neck-and-neck at 188,000 and 187,000 units, respectively. Both consoles moved more than 250,000 systems each the previous month.

Nintendo's Wii and DS once again took the top two spots on the hardware sales chart, but sales of the dual-screen handheld slowed significantly from March, going from 698,000 units sold to 415,000. However, the Wii kept up its momentum, slipping slightly to 714,000 units from 721,000. The PSP was once again the best-selling non-Nintendo system on the market, with 193,000 systems sold in April. Hardware sales were down from March, but they were still up compared to the previous April, jumping 26 percent to $426.2 million.

"This is the first month in many that we've seen a decrease in portable hardware and software sales," Frazier said, "but it's important to remember that this year, the Easter holiday fell in March as compared to April in 2007."

As for a hardware bump from GTAIV, Frazier said it might arrive in May's figures because the game was released so late in the April reporting period.

US VIDEO GAMES INDUSTRY - APRIL 2008
Software: $654.7m (+68%)
Hardware: $426.2m (+26%)
Accessories: $154m (+39%)
Total Games: $1.23b (+47%)

TOP-SELLING HARDWARE - APRIL 2008
Wii--714,000
Nintendo DS--415,000
PlayStation Portable--193,000
Xbox 360--188,000
PlayStation 3--187,000
PlayStation 2--124,000

TOP-SELLING SOFTWARE - APRIL 2008
Title / Publisher / Release Date / Units*
1) Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360) / Take-Two / April 2008 / 1.85M
2) Mario Kart Wii (Wii) / Nintendo / April 2008 / 1.12M
3) Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3) / Take-Two / April 2008 / 1M
4) Wii Play w/ Remote (Wii) / Nintendo / Feb. 2007 / 360K
5) Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) / Nintendo / March 2008 / 326K
6) Gran Turismo 5: Prologue (PS3) / Sony / April 2008 / 224K
7) Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness (DS) / Nintendo / April 2007 / 202K
8) Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time (DS) / Nintendo / April 2007 / 202K
9) Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (Wii) / Activision / Oct. 2007 / 152K
10) Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (360) / Activision / Nov. 2007 / 141K

* Figures include Collector's, Limited, Legendary, Bundles (Guitars) Editions

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