US game sales up 4% in Dec., Nintendo on top - NPD

Nintendo king of US hardware and software rankings with Wii, New Super Mario Bros.; PS3 edges out 360, Wii Fit Plus, Wii Sports Resort get silver, bronze.

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Today, the NPD Group released a somewhat dreary report that revealed overall US game sales decreased 8 percent in 2009. However, it simultaneously revealed that domestic game sales were better than expected during the industry research firm's December reporting period. Last month, NPD found that combined domestic sales of non-PC software, hardware, and accessories increased 4 percent year-over-year to $5.53 billion.

Once again, Nintendo scooped up the most gold coins in December.
Once again, Nintendo scooped up the most gold coins in December.

Part of the reason for the increase was the extended five-week reporting period, which lasted from November 29, 2009, to January 2, 2010. Both game hardware and accessories saw double-digit increases of a respective 16 percent ($2.19 billion) and 15 percent ($760.2 million). The top console for the month was the Wii (3.81 million units), followed by combined sales of all DS handheld models (3.31 million units).

In third place was the PlayStation 3 with 1.36 million units--nearly double the number of consoles Sony sold in December 2008. Right behind the recently discounted $299 machine was the Xbox 360 (1.31 million), which saw the price of both its models--the $199 Arcade and $299 Elite--far below what they were during the last holiday shopping season. Rounding out the hardware chart were the PSP (654,700 units) and the $99, nine-year-old-plus PlayStation 2 (333,200 units).

"There are a lot of hardware records this month," NPD analyst Anita Frazier said in a statement. "The PS3 realized its biggest month of sales ever, and the first time sales have exceeded 1 million units. The Wii and the DS also had their biggest sales months ever, and in fact the two platforms hold the top two spots in sales of any hardware device in a single month. Overall, it was the biggest month of sales for hardware on both a dollar and unit basis."

Software was the one game-industry sector that saw a decline in December, falling 7 percent to $2.58 billion--and still beating analyst expectations. Nintendo was king of the software chart too, with New Super Mario Bros. Wii selling 2.82 million units--more than the 2.75 million units Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 sold between the 360 (4th, 1.63 million) and the PS3 (5th, 1.12 million). The multiplayer platformer has now sold 4.21 million units domestically--still behind Modern Warfare 2's 8.82-million-unit haul on US consoles.

"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has become the fourth best-selling game of all time," declared Frazier. "In fact, three of the top 10 games of all time are Call of Duty games."

But while Activision's shooter has grossed over $1 billion worldwide since its release in November, December saw holiday shoppers scoop up Nintendo games en masse. Six of the top 10 game-software products for the month came out of the Mario Factory, including Wii Fit Plus (second, 2.41 million units), the Wii MotionPlus pack-in Wii Sports Resort (third, 1.79 million units), the Wii Remote pack-in Wii Play (sixth, 1.01 million units), Mario Kart Wii (seventh, 936,100 units), and Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story for the DS (10th, 656,700 units).

Besides Modern Warfare 2, the only other third-party software games in the December software top 10 concerned killing the alive and undead. The Xbox 360 edition of Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed II landed in eighth place with 783,100 units, followed by Electronic Arts and Valve Software's Left 4 Dead 2 and its 728,500 units.

"Six of the top 10 games totaling 20.8 million units for the year were on the Wii platform as compared to four last year at 19 million units," said Frazier. She also noted that "software sales in December were more concentrated among the top games this year than last. This year, 20 percent of sales came from the top [games], whereas last December it was just 12 percent."

Frazier continued, "Madden NFL 10 had a big month selling 1.5 million units across all platforms, besting last December's performance of the '09 game. December's sales made up some of the lost ground realized out the gate when the title came to market in August."

THE NPD GROUP'S DECEMBER 2009 US GAME INDUSTRY SALES

Category / Total / Change
Video Games: $5.53 billion +4%
Video Games Hardware: $2.19 billion +16%
Video Games Software: $2.58 billion -7%
Video Game Accessories: $760.2 million +15%

Hardware Sales (in units sold)
Wii: 3.81 million
Nintendo DS: 3.31 million
PlayStation 3: 1.36 million
Xbox 360: 1.31 million
PlayStation Portable: 654,700
PlayStation 2: 333,200

Game Software (in units sold)
1) New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii, Nintendo) - 2.82 million
2) Wii Fit Plus (Wii, Nintendo) - 2.41 million
3) Wii Sports Resort (Wii, Nintendo) - 1.79 million
4) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (360, Activision) - 1.63 million
5) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PS3, Activision) - 1.12 million
6) Wii Play with Remote (Wii, Nintendo) - 1.01 million
7) Mario Kart Wii with Wheel (Wii, Nintendo) - 936,100
8) Assassin's Creed II (360, Ubisoft) - 783,100
9) Left 4 Dead 2 (360, Electronic Arts) - 728,500
10) Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (DS, Nintendo) - 656,700

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