NPD: US game industry slips 16% in August, PS3 sales nearly double

1.9M units of EA's footballer couldn't prevent double-digit decline; analysts believe Sony has hit "sweet spot" with $299 PS3 Slim; Arkham Asylum, Wii Sports Resort score, while Wolfenstein, G.I. Joe flop.

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The PS3 Slim's early launch boosted the console's sales from 121,800 units to 210,000 units.
The PS3 Slim's early launch boosted the console's sales from 121,800 units to 210,000 units.

The US game industry began August on a low note, after suffering double-digit declines in March, April, May, June, and July. Unfortunately, it ended the month on the downside as well, with combined sales of non-PC game hardware, software, and accessories dropping 16 percent year-on-year to $908.72 million. That was a slight improvement from July, which saw a dramatic 29 percent year-on-year drop and $848.9 million in sales.

On the hardware front, sales sunk 25 percent year-on-year to $297.60 million and were barely up from $280.94 million in July. The ever-popular DS was again on top, selling 552,900 units, followed by the $249 Wii with 277,4000 units. In third was the Xbox 360, which saw its 215,400-unit total rise only slightly month-over-month after the Elite model's price dropped to $299.99 on August 28. However, NPD's August reporting period ended August 29, meaning it was only two days' worth of sales.

By contrast, the fourth-place PlayStation 3 got a big bump last month. Though the $299.99 Slim wasn't supposed to go on sale until September 1, many retailers began selling the console during the last week of August. As a result of that and older PS3 models being marked down, the platform's sales nearly doubled from 121,800 units in July to 210,000 in August.

"These PlayStation 3 figures show that the new $299 price point is a definite sweet spot for the console and I expect the momentum gained in August to continue through the holiday season," Electronic Entertainment Design and Research director of analyst services Jesse Divnich told GameSpot this afternoon. "August also marks the first month the PlayStation 3 has shown year-over-year growth in 2009, and we expect similar growth for the remainder of 2009."

However, Sony's other two platforms continued to bring up the rear. Despite Dissida: Final Fantasy cracking the software top 10 (see below), the fifth-place PSP sold only 140,300 units, followed by the PlayStation 2 and its 105,900 haul.

Much like Brett Favre, Madden doesn't have the same spring in its step.
Much like Brett Favre, Madden doesn't have the same spring in its step.

On the software side, Electronic Arts' Madden NFL 10 was the big winner, taking first place (360 - 928,000 units), third place (PS3 - 665,000 units), and sixth place (PS2 - 160,000). However, those figures were down overall from August 2008, when Madden NFL 09 sold 1 million units on the 360, 643,000 units on the PS3, and 424,500 units on the PS2. The Wii version of Madden, which sold 115,800 units last year, didn't even make the August 2009 top 10, selling just 67,000 units. However, according to NPD, the game sold 1.9 million copies across all platforms--hardly a bust.

Besides 10th-place game Fossil Fighters (DS, 92,000 units), Nintendo took second place with the still-strong Wii Sports Resort (754,000 units), eighth with Wii Fit (128,000 units), and ninth with Mario Kart Wii (120,000 units). The rest of the chart was occupied by another Japanese publisher, Square Enix, and its recently purchased British subsidiary, Eidos Interactive. The Xbox 360 edition of Batman: Arkham Asylum took fourth with 303,000 units, just ahead of the 290,000-unit haul of the PS3 version, which boasts exclusive content. The PSP made a rare appearance in the top 10 with Dissidia: Final Fantasy, which sold 130,000 units.

Fossil Fighter's low bar of 92,000 units didn't bode well for several titles missing from the top 10. Activision was completely shut out of the list, meaning the reboot of the Wolfenstein series underperformed. The game's lack of success was first hinted at last month, when its developer, Madison, Wisconsin-based Raven Software, was hit by layoffs. Also missing in action was the critically drubbed movie tie-in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

Today's numbers were slightly larger than predictions given to GameSpot earlier in the week by analysts such as Divnich, who thinks the Madden decline isn't as serious as it might seem. "Madden sales came in-line with expectations, but again, I do not believe this is a negative reflection on the series," he elaborated. "With the PlayStation 3 gaining a tremendous amount of steam and the continued success of the Xbox 360, we are confident that Madden NFL 11 will show a positive increase. Growth over the last 12 months among the core next-generation systems was simply not large enough to sustain growth for the Madden series."

He continued, "Batman: Arkham Asylum met our expectations and the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 SKU ratio was in-line showing that exclusive content can drive a significant amount of sales for the platform receiving the exclusive content. I would not be surprised if we begin to see Microsoft and Sony approaching publishers on delivering future exclusive content to their platform. It would certainly be cheaper and just as effective than paying for pure exclusivity."

Looking at the current month, Divnich believes that the shrinking rhythm game market--down 46 percent year-to-date--will see a turnaround, thanks to a certain foursome. "I am more than confident that September sales will post a positive comparison. Guitar Hero 5 sales are in-line with expectations and Beatles sales are on track to significantly exceed my previous estimates."

US VIDEO GAMES INDUSTRY - AUGUST 2009
Hardware: $297.60 million (-25%)
Software: $470.32 million (-15%)
Accessories: $137.96 million (+2%)
Total Games: $908.72 million (-16%)

TOP-SELLING HARDWARE - AUGUST 2009
Nintendo DS: 552,900
Wii: 277,400
Xbox 360: 215,400
PlayStation 3: 210,000
PSP: 140,300
PlayStation 2: 105,900

TOP-SELLING SOFTWARE SKUs - AUGUST 2009
Title / Publisher / Units**
1) Madden NFL 10 (360) / Electronic Arts / 928,000
2) Wii Sports Resort w/ Wii Motion Plus (Wii) / Nintendo / 754,000
3) Madden NFL 10 (PS3) / Electronic Arts/ 665,000
4) Batman: Arkham Asylum (360) / Square Enix (Eidos) / 303,000
5) Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3) / Square Enix (Eidos) / 290,000
6) Madden NFL 10 (PS2) / Electronic Arts / 160,000
7) Dissidia: Final Fantasy (PSP) / Square Enix / 130,000
8) Wii Fit (Wii) / Nintendo / 128,000
9) Mario Kart w/ Wheel (Wii) / Nintendo / 120,000
10) Fossil Fighters (DS) / Nintendo / 92,000

** = Figures include Collector's Editions and non-hardware bundles.

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