For the first time this year, video game sales in the US have risen by double-digits, buoyed by highly anticipated releases from Nintendo and Ubisoft, suggesting consumer spending may finally begin flowing again.
Sales of new video games for consoles, PCs, and mobile consoles at US retail shops jumped to $284 million in May, up more than 51 percent from the same time a year ago, according to the latest survey data from market researcher NPD Group. Sales and delivery over the Internet of the same types of games also rose to $239.4 million, jumping more than 19 percent from $200.4 million a year ago, according to SuperData, another research firm.
"After six months of declines, software rebounded," Liam Callahan, an analyst at NPD, said in a statement Monday. He added that half of the spending on software went to new titles that debuted that month, compared with just 9 percent in the same time a year before.
The rise comes after a confounding period, which began in the holiday shopping season. At the time, customers were steadily buying new video game consoles, but overall software spending dipped more than expected.
Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One, launched within a week of one another in November of last year, have together shipped more than 12 million units cumulatively, accounting for steady jumps in hardware sales. But software hasn't followed.
Industry executives initially blamed a steeper-than-expected drop-off in sales of games for older consoles, such as the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, both of which were released more than seven years ago. The rate at which gamers were picking up titles for new consoles hadn't caught up, throwing industry trends into a tailspin.
Ubisoft's cybercrime thriller Watch Dogs and Nintendo's racing game Mario Kart 8 indicate this trend could start to turn around. Nintendo in particular said Mario Kart's popularity helped its hardware sales increase more than 85 percent over the same time a year ago, despite the game only having been on the market for two days in the survey.
The top-selling game at US retail stores in the month was Watch Dogs, followed by Mario Kart 8, and then Sony's baseball game MLB 14: The Show. In terms of sales and deliveries over the Internet, SuperData said Watch Dogs took the top spot, followed by Sony's superhero game InFamous: Second Son, and Titanfall, the space-age war game published by Electronic Arts.
Among mobile games, SuperData added that Supercell's Clash of Clans strategy title pulled in the most revenue for the month, followed by King Digital's Candy Crush Saga and Farm Heroes Saga. Candy Crush Saga was also the top game played on social-networking websites, followed by Zynga's FarmVille 2 and DoubleDown's Casino Slots & Poker.
Video game console sales continued to rise, marking a 95 percent gain for the month to $187 million, up from $96 million a year earlier. Accessories, such as gift cards and companion toys, rose a comparatively modest 8 percent to $284 million from $188 million a year earlier.