NPD: Video Game Sales Plummet in July, Xbox 360 Defiant

Nintendo and Microsoft sales led a fifth straight month of US retail video game sales declines, while Wii sales plummeted despite a strong debut for Motion Control Plus headliner Wii Sports Resort. Microsoft's Xbox 360 continued to exhibit trend-bucking year-to-date growth stamina, up 17 percent for the first seven months of 2009, making it the only console so far to show growth in 2009. Nintendo dominated software sales with mostly long established titles, while the Xbox 360 version of NCAA Football 10 sold 140k more copies than the PS3 version. Year-to-date sales stand at $8.16 billion, down 14% for the same time period last year.

How completely has the train jumped the tracks? NPD Group's Anita Frazier says the last five months of 2009 will have to register retail sales of 11% or more than the last five months of 2008 to come in flat. There's reason to suspect it's possible, and Fraizer points to games like Madden, The Beatles: Rock Band, Halo 3: ODST, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 as candidates for a back-five sales recovery.

Hardware

539k - Nintendo DS
253k - Wii
203k - Xbox 360
123k - PSP
122k - PlayStation 3
108k - PlayStation 2

Hardware sales were down moderately to sharply for all platforms in July. From last month, Nintendo's DS and Wii sales each fell 30%, the 360 16%, the PSP 15%, the PS3 16%, and the PS2 29%.

Year-over-year, Nintendo's DS was only down 11% but the Wii crashed to earth with a 54% drop off July 2008 hardware figures. The Xbox 360, which was at this time last year slightly below the PS3 in July's estimated hardware numbers, was within the margin of error at 1% down (203k vs. 205k) compared to the PS3, which fell 46% (122k vs. 225k). The PSP dropped 45%, and PS2 sales fell 30%.

It looks like 2009 is turning out to be Microsoft's show. Said Frazier: "The Xbox 360 is the only console system showing a unit sales increase year-to-date, while the NDS has the highest sales of all hardware platforms both for the month, and year-to-date."

Software

508k - Wii Sports Resort / Wii
377k - NCAA Football 10 / 360
237k - NCAA Football 10 / PS3
164k - Wii Fit / Wii
157k - Mario Kart / Wii
132k - Mario Kart / DS
116k - Pokemon Platinum / DS
116k - Fight Night Round 4 / 360
102k - New Super Mario Bros / DS
97k - EA Sports Active Bundle / Wii

The upside of NCAA Football 10's numbers with combined sales of 689k units across all platforms is that it's selling comparable to last year's NCAA Football 09. That's equally a downside, since it's technically selling comparable to a game that came out a year ago--when everyone's US hardware install footprint was much smaller.

Wii Sports Resort was the unsurprising winner, racking up "a 2.5% attach rate to the hardware install base," according to Frazier.

All in all, nothing much to see this month. The two salients: The PS3's longstanding sales slump is almost certainly due to its boutique pricing at this point, and Nintendo's Wii may have finally peaked, given the recent disproportionate declines in month-over-month sales.

Also: Bear in mind that Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter is predicting a return to profitability next month.

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