NPD: Game sales slide 10 percent in May

Weaker-than-expected Xbox 360 numbers, console transition dogpile on industry; PC game sales rise 12 percent.

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An artist's interpretation of what happened to Xbox 360 game sales in May.
An artist's interpretation of what happened to Xbox 360 game sales in May.

Currently, the conventional wisdom is that 2006 will see sales of current-generation games fall as games for next-generation consoles rise. So why, then, did sales of Xbox 360 games plummet from $75 million in April to $47 million in May? That's one of the questions raised by the latest report from industry-research group NPD Funworld, which was released today.

The 360's 180 was one of the main reasons US game sales for May 2006 were only $286 million, 10 percent below May 2005. NPD figures also fingered weaker-than-expected sales of titles for the PSP, which has seen its momentum slow in recent months. The report also said that sales of DS titles were weaker than expected, even though the number one game for the month was New Super Mario Bros., which generated nearly $9.5 million in sales all by itself.

Overall, what NPD terms "current-generation" software--Xbox, GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Game Boy Advance games--slid $96 million to just $188 million for the month, versus May 2005. "Next-generation" software--Xbox 360, DS, and PSP games--hauled in a combined $98 million, far below Wedbush Morgan Securties' analyst Michael Pachter's estimates.

And, according to Pachter, May may only be the beginning. "We think that this trend foreshadows continuing weak sales until the holidays, as we expect continued monthly year-over-year declines of 30-40 percent for current-generation software sales, with next-generation software sales growth failing to offset these declines," he wrote in a report issued today.

As for May's best-selling console games, according to raw data from NPD, after New Super Mario Bros. was last month's number one game, Kingdom Hearts II for the PS2. Then it was back down to DS town with Brain Age: Train Your Brain In Minutes a Day. The newly $19.95 God of War was behind it at number four, followed by the two top dogs on the Xbox 360: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Though Major League Baseball 2K6 was relegated to 19th (PS2) and 20th (Xbox) places, Sony's MLB '06: The Show was still swinging for the fences at number seven.

The eighth-best-selling console game of May will likely surprise many. Riding a wave of positive buzz, Red Octane's Guitar Hero bundle has been selling well, and has led to a new social phenomenon--Guitar Hero parties. In ninth place on the list was another favorite--Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which joined the $19.99 line of "Greatest Hits" games for the PS2 earlier this year. In 10th was another surprise--the original Kingdom Hearts for the PS2, which was released back in 2002.

TOP CONSOLE GAMES: MAY 2006*

1 - New Super Mario Bros. (DS)
2 - Kingdom Hearts II (PS2)
3 - Brain Age: Train Your Brain In Minutes a Day (DS)
4 - God of War (PS2)
5 - Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (Xbox 360)
6 - Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360)
7 - MLB '06: The Show (PS2)
8 - Guitar Hero (with Guitar) (PS2)
9 - Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2)
10 - Kingdom Hearts (PS2)
11 - X-Men: The Official Game (PS2)
12 - Over the Hedge (PS2)
13 - Fight Night Round 3 (Xbox 360)
14 - FIFA World Cup 2006 (PS2)
15 - The Godfather: The Game (PS2)
16 - Gran Turismo 4 (PS2)
17 - Battlefield 2: Modern Combat (Xbox 360)
18 - Midnight Club 3: Dub Ed Remix (PS2)
19 - Major League Baseball 2K6 (PS2)
20 - Major League Baseball 2K6 (Xbox 360)

*Does not combine collector's and regular editions of games.

One of the few bright spots in the NPD report came courtesy of the PC. Sales for the mother of all platforms bucked the downward trend, and were actually up 12 percent over May 2005. Some $63 million worth of boxed retail PC games were sold, meaning the figure must've been much higher, since it doesn't include online sales of games via services such as Valve's Steam digital distribution network.

Down PC way, NPD pegged NCsoft's Guild Wars expansion, Guild Wars Factions, as the top tile of the month of May. It was followed by a pair of RPGs: the still-strong massively multiplayer World of Warcraft, and the social-life-cripplingly massive The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The Sims 2 took fourth, followed by Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends and The Sims 2 Family Fun Stuff expansion pack. Then it was Electronic Arts' Sims 2 Open for Business expansion pack and Microsoft's Age of Empires III. The last spot in the top 10 was another EA game of a very different sort--Battlefield 2.

TOP PC GAMES: MAY 2006*

1 - Guild Wars Factions
2 - World of Warcraft
3 - Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
4 - The Sims 2
5 - Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends
6 - The Sims 2 Family Fun Stuff Expansion Pack
7 - Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter
8 - The Sims 2 Open for Business
9 - Age of Empires III
10 - Battlefield 2
11 - Civilization IV
12 - Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth II
13 - Star Wars: Empire at War
14 - Heroes of Might & Magic V
15 - Call of Duty 2
16 - Guild Wars
17 - Warcraft III Battle Chest
18 - Guild Wars Factions: Collector's Edition
19 - The Sims 2 Nightlife Expansion Pack
20 - The Sims Complete Collection

*Does not combine collector's and regular editions of games.

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