NPD: September game sales spike 38 percent

Software up 29 percent, thanks to Madden and Saints Row; 70 percent hardware boost credited to DS and Xbox 360.

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This morning, industry research group NPD Funworld released its game-sales numbers for the month of September. As has been the case several times this year, the results were better than expected. Combined monthly retail sales of game software, hardware, and accessories for the month were $777 million, a massive 38 percent increase from the $563 million taken in during September 2005.

Game software rang up $446 million at retail during the month, a year-on-year increase of 29 percent. Analysts gave the majority of credit to three games--Electronic Arts' Madden NFL 07, THQ's Saints Row, and LucasArts' Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy. By platform, PlayStation 2 games saw an increase of 12 percent, PlayStation Portable games rose 31 percent, and Game Boy Advance games climbed 2 percent. Only two platforms lost ground on the software front: the GameCube (down 25 percent year-on-year) and the Xbox (down 54 percent year-on-year).

However, all other platforms were overshadowed by the runaway success of the DS. Continued strong sales of Brain Age and New Super Mario Bros. caused software revenue for the dual-screen handheld to nearly double, climbing some 194 percent when compared to September 2005. DS hardware units rose some 141 percent year-on-year, with more than 400,000 DS systems being sold during the month, according to NPD estimates. So far this year, the handheld has moved more than 6.2 million units in the US--of those, 1.4 million are DS Lites. As revealed in their profit revisions last week, Nintendo now expects to sell 20 million DSes and 82 million DS games worldwide during 2006.

Though there are not any year-on-year comparisons for the Xbox 360, which was released last November, the console still had a banner month. In September, it sold more than 250,000 units, raising its US installed base to 2.7 million. Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter predicts that the console will sell around 400,000 360 units domestically this month, 750,000 to 1 million 360s in November, and 1.5 million to 2 million units in December. "Sell-through of Xbox 360 hardware could be higher if the supply situation for the PlayStation 3 falls well short of demand, with many holiday gift-givers likely substituting purchases of the 360 in place of the PS3," Pachter said in a note to investors.

As far as publishers go, THQ's sales increased 106 percent, thanks to Saints Row. With no competition from an actual Grand Theft Auto game, the well-reviewed GTA clone sold an estimated 455,000 units during the month--at $59.99 a pop, that's over $27.2 million dollars in gross revenue.

Another big winner was Take-Two Interactive. The controversial publisher saw its monthly revenue increase 62 percent year-on-year, thanks to new releases NBA 2K7 and NHL 2K7 and continued strong sales of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

Also doing well was EA, which saw an increase of 16 percent versus September 2005. Madden sold more than 700,000 units across all platforms, NBA Live exceeded 200,000 units, and the Xbox 360 version of the Godfather topped 50,000 units.

Other gainers for September were Majesco (up 105 percent) and Atari, whose 33 percent year-on-year gain was credited to the release of Test Drive Unlimited. Publishers that saw annual declines in monthly revenue during the month included Activision (down 32 percent) and Midway (down 46 percent).

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