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Video game sales continue to slide on lack of new releases

Without a more robust catalog of new games for the current generation of consoles, sales remained sluggish in August and were saved only by the steady adoption of new hardware.

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Despite strong hardware momentum for current generation video game consoles, game software sales remain stagnant in the absence of exciting new titles. Sarah Tew/CNET

More than nine months after the release of new generation consoles from Microsoft and Sony, video game software sales continue to slide steeper as new titles remain few and far between.

According to the latest report from market researcher NPD Group, August software sales for the previous generation of consoles declined 57 percent from the same time last year while sales for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Wii U failed to offset the drop, resulting in a $47 million overall decrease year over year.

"New launches in August 2014 declined 41 percent compared to new launch performance in August 2013," wrote NPD analyst Liam Callahan. The problem: not enough new games hit the market last month, and the library of current offerings remains slim. "Eight out of the top 10 games in August [2013] were new launches compared to only three in August 2014," Callahan added. Madden NFL 15 for the PS4 was the best-selling game last month, Sony confirmed Thursday.

The video game industry saw a brief spike in software sales in May with the arrival of highly anticipated releases like Ubisoft's Watch Dogs, an open-world action game about urban surveillance, and Mario Kart 8, Nintendo's latest entry in its popular driving series. Since then, however, game sales have continue to fall while game publishers prepare their fall catalog of new releases, which is set to include heavyweights like Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Halo Master Chief Collection and Assassin's Creed Unity.

The industry is expected to rebound next month ahead of the flurry of new games slated for October and November. Publisher Activision on Tuesday released Destiny, a large-scale multiplayer shooter available across both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One platforms as well as for the PS3 and PS4. Developed by Bungie, the studio behind Halo, Destiny was the most preordered video game not part of an existing franchise in history. Activision said it sold $500 million worth of copies to retailers. That marks the biggest new game franchise launch ever.

Digital game sales figures from SuperData Research confirm that Destiny preorders helped prop up online activity in an otherwise sluggish month that saw $820 million in combined digital sales in the US, a 4 percent decrease month over month.

"With Activision's Destiny available for pre-download in late-August, digital console proved to be the strongest category this month, showing an increase for both download sales and microtransaction revenue," wrote SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen. SuperData said that mobile gaming declined to $281 million for the month.

Console hardware sales continue to carry the industry's positive growth, which jumped by 8 percent last month compared with August 2013. Overall hardware sales double in August on the strength of a 200 percent increase in console hardware sales compared with last year.

"Eighth generation hardware represented close to 70 percent of August 2014 hardware sales, which is the highest percentage share since the release of the Xbox One and PS4 back in November 2013," Callahan wrote.

Sony said Thursday that the PS4 led console hardware sales for the eighth consecutive month in August. The PS4's lifetime sales to consumers has exceeded 10 million units, the company announced last month. Microsoft has yet to disclose lifetime sales figures for the Xbox One since announcing earlier this year that the company had shipped 5 million units to retailers.