Video game hardware sales plummeted in March, survey says

Sales of devices like the Xbox, PlayStation and Wii U drop by more than a fifth, repeating the post-Christmas lull of earlier this year.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
2 min read

Battlefield Hardline bolstered struggling industry sales. Electronic Arts

Has everyone who wants a new video game console finally gotten one?

That's the question facing the video game industry after new hardware sales in the US fell by more than 20 percent both in March and earlier, in January, according to surveys by industry researcher NPD Group.

The poor performance, totalling little more than $311 million, dragged down aggregate US sales of new games, hardware and accessories to $963.7 million, down 6 percent from the same time a year ago. One bright spot was sales of video game titles, which fell only 3 percent to $395.4 million, likely bolstered by the highly anticipated Electronic Arts' cops-and-robbers shooting game Battlefield Hardline, released on March 17.

Microsoft tried to play up the industry's poor performance, saying sales of its Xbox One console still outpaced its predecessor's at the same time in its release, according to a statement. Microsoft didn't provide any other sales data. Nintendo said sales of its Wii U so far this year rose 20 percent over the same period a year ago, but offered no other specifics. Sony, which makes the PlayStation 4, didn't immediately provide a statement.

Perhaps even worse, the number of video game consoles sold only fell 9 percent, NPD analyst Liam Callahan said in a statement. It was the amount of money made per console that fell even more.

The industry's lagging sales underscore the continuing struggles to market the latest video game consoles from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo to potential customers. After a rush of customers snapped up the consoles when they launched more than a year ago, sales data has been inconsistent. For much of last year, for example, software sales underperformed historical averages, while hardware appeared strong.

When sales and downloads over the Internet are factored in, software sales are even stronger. SuperData Research said downloaded sales of games and game storylines for PCs and video game consoles rose to $314.7 million, up 16.7 percent from the same time a year ago.

The top selling game both at retail stores and online was EA's Battlefield Hardline, followed by Sony's action game Bloodborne and Take-Two Interactive's year-and-a-half-old crime drama game Grand Theft Auto V.

Sales of video game accessories also grew, helped in part by popular releases of new action figures from Nintendo's Amiibo collection, which are designed to interact with games playing on a screen.