Diablo III can't save May game sales

Blizzard's latest becomes the first PC exclusive to top the sales chart since Starcraft II, but total retail sales still down 28% year-over-year.

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At the risk of overstating things for the sake of a pun, Diablo III ruled a hellishly bad month of game sales. The NPD Group today revealed its latest figures, revealing that game industry retail sales for the month of May were down 28 percent year-over-year even as Blizzard's latest topped the charts.

Diablo III offered no salvation to a declining game industry.
Diablo III offered no salvation to a declining game industry.

So far, every month this year has provided double-digit declines in game industry sales, with February's 20 percent decline counting as the best performance of 2012 to date. Hardware was particularly weak for the month (down 39 percent), with the NPD reporting all platforms except for the 3DS sold fewer systems this May than last. As in April, only accessory sales managed to post gains year-over-year, thanks to both increased sales of redeemable cards and Skylanders action figures.

As for why the industry is in such a slump, NPD analyst Anita Frazier said part of the reason was due to a smaller array of titles for customers to choose from. "YTD 2012, there have been 27% fewer new software title introductions into retail which we believe is a big part of the softness we're seeing in May sales," Frazier said, adding, "A title obviously continues to see sales beyond its launch month, so there is a longer term impact from a narrower array of available new content."

As for what did sell, Diablo III left its mark on the charts as the first PC-exclusive title to take the top spot since another Blizzard title, Starcraft II, accomplished the feat in July 2010. The action role-playing game revival pushed PC gaming to $80 million in sales, a 230 percent year-over-year sales bump. Other new releases to hit the chart included Max Payne 3 (second), Ghost Recon Future Soldier (third), Sniper Elite V2 (seventh), and Dragon's Dogma (ninth).

After the numbers were released, Microsoft revealed that it sold 160,000 Xbox 360s during the month, good enough to make the system the best-selling home console for the 17th straight month. In addition, Microsoft said total consumer spending on Xbox 360 games, hardware, and accessories hit $209 million, more than was spent on the Wii and PlayStation 3 combined.

MAY 2012 US GAME SALES
OVERALL DOLLAR SALES
Total consumer spend (rentals, used sales, digital estimates included): $1.17 billion
Total retail sales: $516.5 million (-28%)
Non-PC hardware: $138.9 million (-39%)
Non-PC software: $255.4 million (-32%)
Total software: $335.2 million (-16%)
Accessories: $122.3 million (+7%)

TOP 10 GAMES FOR MAY 2012
Title (Platforms) - Publisher
1. Diablo III (PC) - Activision Blizzard
2. Max Payne 3 (X360, PS3) - Take-Two
3. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier (X360, PS3) - Ubisoft
4. Prototype 2 (X360, PS3) - Activision
5. NBA 2K12 (X360, PS3, PS2, PSP, Wii, PC) - Take-Two
6. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (X360, PS3, Wii, PC) - Activision
7. Sniper Elite V2 (X360, PS3) - 505 Games
8. Battlefield 3 (X360, PS3, PC) - Electronic Arts
9. Dragon's Dogma (X360, PS3) - Capcom
10. Just Dance 3 (Wii, X360, PS3) - Ubisoft

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