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Xbox 360 scores big but gaming sales dip in 2011

Microsoft's gaming console grabbed almost 40 percent of all physical retail sales last year, but the gaming industry as a whole finished 2011 on a slightly down note, according to NPD.


Microsoft's Xbox 360 was one of the few bright spots in a year marked by a downturn in retail gaming sales, according to data out yesterday from NPD Group.

The Xbox 360 scored almost 40 percent of physical retail sales across all product categories in 2011. Microsoft's gaming console was the top-selling platform of the year, said NPD, though Sony's PlayStation 3 also saw a jump in unit sales over 2010.

Revenue from software, accessories, and other items for the Xbox 360 and PS3 rose 5 percent for the year.

But the gaming industry as a whole didn't fare as well.

Total physical retail sales for the year, including hardware, software, and accessories, fell to $17.02 billion, an 8 percent dip from $18.59 billion in 2010. Sales of hardware and accessories each dropped by 11 percent, while video game sales inched down by 6 percent.

Beyond the Xbox 360 and PS3, all other platforms showed a drop in unit sales compared with 2010.

Factoring in computer games along with titles for consoles and portable machines, gaming sales dropped to $9.3 billion, 8 percent lower than the $10.1 billion captured in 2010.

Moving beyond the traditional retail sector, though, consumers spent more on used games, digital downloads, and mobile gaming apps last year, all of which helped offset the decline throughout the rest of the industry. As a result, spending across the board on both physical and digital products likely hit somewhere between $16.3 billion and $16.6 billion, around a 2 percent drop from 2010.

The results didn't exactly shock NPD.

"Overall industry results are not entirely surprising given that we are on the back end of the current console lifecycle, combined with the continued digital evolution of gaming," said NPD analyst Anita Frazier in a statement. "Core gamers continue to be engaged and spend on established franchises across both the digital and physical format using multiple devices for different gaming occasions."

Among the top 10 games for the year, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was the best seller, followed by Just Dance 3, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Battlefield 3, and Madden NFL 12.

Gamers also scooped up Call of Duty: Black Ops, Batman: Arkham City, Gears of War 3, Just Dance 2, and Assassin's Creed: Revelations.

"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 landed in the top spot for software title sales for both December and for Annual 2011," Frazier said. "Looking at the top 10 titles for the year, two franchises scored with two titles each: Call of Duty and Just Dance - two franchises that couldn't be more different, demonstrating the range of appealing content on consoles in 2011."