Video game software sales drop in June with no compelling new entries

Sales of new hardware more than double, but game software returns to its earlier struggles.

PlayStation 4 unboxing screenshot
Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

The video game industry's software sales rebound last month appears to have been short-lived.

For the first time this year, sales of new video games in US retail stores had risen double-digits in May, lifted by highly-anticipated new games from Nintendo and Ubisoft. Now, new surveys for June indicate sales tallies have fallen back to Earth and then some, dropping 5 percent to $298.2 million, according to surveys from market researcher NPD Group.

"Sales of launch titles in June 2014 did not compare favorably to those launched in June 2013," NPD analyst Liam Callahan said in a statement. He noted that this time last year, Sony had released The Last of Us, a blockbuster post-apocalytic zombie game that was so popular the company is creating an updated version for its new PlayStation 4 console. Nintendo had also released Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Minecraft, the world-building game, had been released.

This month, there were no substantial new titles, NPD said.

Sales and downloads of the same types of games over the Internet fared better, according to a survey by SuperData Research, which pegged the jump at nearly 23 percent to $240.5 million.

The mixed success of the industry could be good news for game makers like Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard, and Take-Two Interactive Software. These companies typically make more money when a game is sold and downloaded over the Internet, saving them the costs of printing a disk, putting it in a plastic case, shipping it around the world, and giving a cut to a retailer to sell it to a customer.

But the continuing trend could squeeze retailers. GameStop, a top game retailer, has begun selling game download codes in its stores, in addition to expanding its customer affinity programs and other measures to respond to the changing landscape.

Watch Dogs is top dog

The top games sold at retail in June were Ubisoft's cyber-crime title Watch Dogs, followed by Nintendo's Mario Kart 8 racing game and the blockbuster world-building game Minecraft, NPD said. Over the Internet, Watch Dogs took the top spot, according to SuperData, but second place was Minecraft followed by Sony's superhero title InFamous: Second Son.

Among games played through social media websites, King Digital's Candy Crush Saga took the top spot, followed by Zynga's FarmVille 2 and DoubleDown's DoubleDown Casino Slots & Poker, SuperData said.

On mobile devices, the top game was SuperCell's Clash of Clans, followed by Candy Crush Saga and King's other popular title, Farm Heroes Saga.

But a surprise hit was Glu Mobile's game made in partnership with celebrity Kim Kardashian. "As the mobile games market grows more crowded, the anticipated value of brands is starting to become evident," said Joost van Dreunen, head of SuperData. The game has managed to become a top-grossing mobile title within weeks of its launch in June, he said, and is on track to generate $200 million this year.

Sales of video game hardware more than doubled, NPD said, topping $292 million. The company doesn't disclose console sales data by company. NPD also did not say which hardware was the best selling.

Sony said its PlayStation 4 was the top-selling video game console for the month, without disclosing any sales data. Microsoft and Nintendo also did not disclose detailed annualized sales data.

Sales of accessories, such as gift cards to download additional story lines or toys that interact with games, grew 1 percent, NPD said, to almost $160 million.

About the author

Ian Sherr is a senior writer for CNET focused on social media and video game companies. He has previously written for The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the Agence France-Presse. He's a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, though he knows what real weather feels like too.

 

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