For a game built on stealthily sneaking through the shadows, Splinter Cell: Conviction has taken an uncharacteristically visible position atop the sales charts. The industry-tracking NPD Group today released its US retail sales figures for April, with the Ubisoft-published Sam Fisher adventure easily becoming the best-selling game of the month.
Splinter Cell: Conviction's 486,100 first-month sales was notable not just for the way it doubled up sales of the second-place finisher Pokemon SoulSilver, but also for being the lone highlight of what turned out to be a brutal month of gaming retail.
Overall, gaming sales were down 26 percent from April 2009 to $766.2 million, with software down 22 percent to $398.5 million. Analyst predictions for software sales had ranged from down 10 percent to up slightly.
Beyond Splinter Cell: Conviction, the biggest new releases for April were Capcom's Wii-exclusive Monster Hunter Tri and its fighting update Super Street Fighter IV. The biggest new releases in the NPD Group's April 2009 reporting period was The Godfather II, with continued strong sales from earlier releases like Resident Evil 5, Pokemon Platinum, and the original Street Fighter IV.
The only other new release to make the charts was the PlayStation 3 edition of Super Street Fighter IV, which outsold its Xbox 360 counterpart to claim 10th place. A number of March hits held their ground on the charts, with Pokemon SoulSilver and HeartGold claiming second and fourth place, and God of War III rounding out the top five. The Xbox 360 edition of Electronic Arts' Battlefield: Bad Company II finished in seventh place. The rest of the March debuts fell out of the top 10, as the PS3 edition of Bad Company, both versions of Final Fantasy XIII, and MLB 10: The Show for the PS3 all dropped from the charts.
On the hardware front, the order of systems remained unchanged, with Nintendo's one-two punch of the DS and Wii claiming the top two spots yet again, followed by the Xbox 360, PS3, and PSP. However, sales of every system fell precipitously, combining to leave hardware sales down 37 percent year-over-year to $249.3 million.
The hardware chart is also slightly shorter this month, as the NPD Group has stopped releasing its PlayStation 2 hardware sales figures. NPD has also reduced its reporting of software sales, now only offering monthly units for the first five games on its top 10 chart.
NPD analyst Anita Frazier pointed to the handheld market as a big cause for the sagging numbers.
"The portable side of the industry contributed more than its fair share to the industry decline," Frazier said. "The portable business across hardware, software, and accessories accounted for 25 percent of total industry dollar sales in April but declines in portable sales compared to April '09 accounted for 61 percent of the total industry decrease."
The casual genre was another segment of the industry that slowed its pace since the previous year, according to Frazier. She noted that kart racing, rhythm games, party games, and the like made up only 24 percent of total software revenues for the month, compared to 36 percent for April of 2009, calling it an "indication that more core content shored up better than did some of the more casual or nontraditional content."
APRIL 2010 US GAME SALES
OVERALL DOLLAR SALES
Total: $766.2 million (-26%)
Hardware: $249.3 million (-37%)
Software: $398.5 million (-22%)
Accessories: $118.4 million (-9%)
Xbox 360: 185,400
PlayStation 3: 180,800
TOP 10 GAMES (by SKU)
Title / Platform / Publisher / Release Date / Units sold (only provided for top five)
1. Splinter Cell: Conviction / 360 / Ubisoft / Apr-10 / 486,100
2. Pokemon SoulSilver / DS / Nintendo / Mar-10 / 242,900
3. New Super Mario Bros. / Wii / Nintendo / Nov-09 / 200,300
4. Pokemon HeartGold / DS / Nintendo / Mar-10 / 192,600
5. God of War III / PS3 / SCEA / Mar-10 / 180,300
6. Wii Sports Resort / Wii / Nintendo / Jul-09
7. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 / X360 / Electronic Arts / Mar-10
8. Wii Fit Plus w/ Balance Board / Wii / Nintendo / Oct-09
9. Just Dance / Wii / Ubisoft / Nov-09
10. Super Street Fighter IV / PS3 / Capcom / Apr-10
Source: The NPD Group