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Lack of new titles hurts US video game sales in August

Sales of games at retail stores have fallen 10 percent year over year, dampening hopes for a sustained rebound.

Madden NFL 16 was the top-selling game in August, despite coming out just before the end of the month. EA

Even the late entry of Madden NFL 16 wasn't enough to help the video game industry score a win in August.

Sales of game software at US retail stores turned south again in August, falling 10 percent year over year to $207 million, according to surveys from market researcher NPD Group. Overall, sales of new physical software, hardware, and accessories fell 2 percent to $548 million.

August's decline came as the industry appeared to be bouncing back from abysmal to lackluster sales figures for previous months. Software sales plummeted in May by 25 percent but rebounded with 19 percent growth in June and largely flat numbers in July.

The decline in August followed a dearth of new titles in August, NPD said.

"New launches collectively declined by 16 percent compared to August 2014 launches," NPD analyst Liam Callahan said in a statement. He noted that sales of software for the newest generation of games consoles were up 34 percent, but that wasn't enough to offset the 51 percent decline in game sales for the previous generation. Sales of software for portables were also a sore spot, falling 24 percent in August.

The bright star of the month was Madden NFL 16, Electronic Arts' pro football simulator, which grabbed the top sales spot despite being on the market for only four days during the studied period.

The game "maintains its status as a key video game franchise, ranking as the third-best selling franchise to date (since 1995, when NPD began tracking VG sales)," Callahan said. Rounding out the top three selling games for the month were Microsoft's Minecraft and Gears of War Ultimate Edition.

Sales and downloads of the same types of games over the Internet were more sluggish than usual, according to a survey by SuperData Research, which counted $979 million in combined sales in the US, an 11 percent increase month over month. But a major rebound is in store for the end of the year, the researcher predicts.

"With many of the major title releases only a few weeks out, we anticipate a strong resurgence in the coming months, as consumers ready themselves," SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen wrote in a statement. "Early estimates indicate that the upcoming holiday season may prove to be the industry's biggest yet, due to the momentum from mainstream consumers adoption interactive entertainment in combination with the console cycle reaching its zenith."

Sales of accessories, such as gift cards to download additional story lines or toys that interact with games, were the only positive category of the US retail video game industry in August, NPD said, rising 12 percent to $149 million for the month.