Video game sales slip 16 percent

Though game software took a hit in March, sales of consoles and accessories were up, according to NPD. Also: the Nintendo 3DS enters the fray.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

The video game industry had a mixed March as hardware sales were up thanks in part to the popularity of the Nintendo DS, but software sales took a steep dive, according to the latest data from NPD.

For the month, game console sales rose to $494.5 million, a gain of 12 percent from $440.6 million in the year-ago period. Sales of video game accessories also showed strong growth, rising 13 percent to $241.3 million from $214.3 million a year ago. NPD attributed the upturn to demand for Nintendo's DS, which was the top-selling console in March with 461,000 units sold in the U.S.

How did Nintendo's new 3DS fare?

Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime initially said in an interview that the company sold less than 400,000 3DS units last month following the console's debut on March 27, a number that matches NPD's data. That figure may not be definitive, however--a Bloomberg report citing Fils-Aime puts it at 440,000. Either way, that number failed to match the demand for the original DS in its debut, though NPD accentuated the positive on the 3DS sales.

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"While the 3DS sold about 100,000 units less than the DS did in its launch month, we must consider that the DS launched in November and had holiday seasonality and a price differential of about $100," NPD analyst Anita Frazier said in a statement. "Because of the price differential, the 3DS generated greater revenues than did the DS in its launch month in November 2004. In addition, the 3DS was launched in an environment where there are more devices that can support the portable gaming experience such as tablets and smartphones."

Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter earlier this week had estimated that 3DS unit sales would hit 500,000 for the month.

Sales for Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PS3 and PlayStation Portable consoles also grew in March, according to NPD. Demand for the PSP was boosted by a $40 drop in the console's price tag, which occurred in late February.

But things weren't as bright on the software side. Sales of physical games (NPD's numbers did not include digital downloads) dropped 16 percent to $735.4 million from $875.7 million a year ago. The downturn was due in part to the lack of blockbuster titles like those that sold well in March 2010, according to NPD.

For the month, the top five titles were Pokemon White, Pokemon Black, Homefront, Dragon Age II, and Call of Duty: Black Ops. But those and other popular games couldn't deliver the sales provided by last year's marquee titles, such as Final Fantasy XIII, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and God of War 3.

Combining hardware, software, and accessories, the video game industry saw its overall March sales drop by 4 percent to $1.53 billion from $1.58 billion a year ago.