2005 a record year for US gaming

Industry outpaces 2004 revenues despite fourth-quarter slump; Electronic Arts and Star Wars dominate year-end sales list.

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Despite less-than-rosy reports from retailers for the last few months of 2005, the US game industry still experienced record sales, according to year-end figures from The NPD Group.

For the year, US retailers sold $10.5 billion of gaming hardware, software, and accessories, 6 percent higher than last year's $9.9 billion. The 2005 tally also sets a new record for the industry, breaking 2002's previous high of $10.3 billion.

Anita Frazier, entertainment-industry analyst for the NPD Group, reflected on how, after a dismal fourth calendar quarter, the industry was able to end the year with a net revenue gain. "Heading into the second week of December, all industry grumblings continued, [indicating] that the industry was very soft and that few, if any, titles were selling at expectations. Combined with the grumbling about the lack of supply of 360's, well, it wasn't pretty...[but] by all accounts, the last two weeks were stellar."

What a lot of people didn't recognize, given the bad reports in the back part of the year, Frazier said, "was that as of November, on a year-to-date basis, we were still up 5 percent."

And ultimately, it was the holiday season that spelled the difference for the industry.

"The last two-week pickup is a testament to the appeal of this form of entertainment," said Frazier. "Folks may have been dragging their feet, but when it came down to it, they wanted something 'gaming' under the trees for the holiday."

While the console market declined over the year as the transition to next-generation systems began, the portable market picked up the slack, bringing in $1.4 billion thanks to the launch of the PSP and the growing momentum of the Nintendo DS. Despite the suddenly crowded handheld market, the Game Boy Advance remained king of the portables, as 64 percent of portable games sold were for the GBA.

As for the actual games, it was a banner year for Electronic Arts and the Star Wars franchise. EA took home five of the top 10 best-selling titles, with Madden NFL 06 coming in first and fourth place on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, respectively, and three of its other sports titles making appearances in the top 10. Three Star Wars games also made the top list, with the predictable sellers, the game based on Star Wars Episode III and Battlefront II, being joined by Eidos' quirky Lego Star Wars action gamer.

Top console and handheld games of 2005:
1. Madden NFL 06 (PS2), Electronic Arts, over 2.9 million sold
2. Pokemon Emerald (GBA), Nintendo of America, over 1.7 million sold
3. Gran Turismo 4 (PS2), SCEA, over 1.5 million sold
4. Madden NFL 06 (Xbox), Electronic Arts, over 1.2 million sold
5. NCAA Football 06 (PS2), Electronic Arts, over 1.1 million sold
6. Star Wars: Battlefront II (PS2), LucasArts, over 1 million sold
7. MVP Baseball 2005 (PS2), Electronic Arts, over 970,000 sold
8. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (PS2), LucasArts, over 930,000 sold
9. NBA Live 06 (PS2), Electronic Arts, over 820,000 sold
10. LEGO Star Wars (PS2), Eidos, over 800,000 sold

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