September Video Game Revenue Rebounds, PS3 Sales Surge

PlayStation 3, Halo 3: ODST

After a stormy six months of year-over-year declines, the video games industry finally turned the corner in September according to NPD retail sales data. Rebounding sharply from August's 16 percent revenue decline, sales of video game hardware, software, and accessories rallied to $1.28b in September, a 1% increase over the same period the year prior at $1.27b, but up sharply over August's disappointing $909m.

"The industry managed a modest increase over September 2008, and generated the second bestselling September on record after 2007 when Halo 3 released and sold over 3 million copies that month," said NPD analyst Anita Frazier in a press email. Unit sales were flat, she said, adding that revenue increases were spurred by an average retail price rise across all categories save console hardware, where recent price drops inhibited revenue growth despite an uptick in total units moved.

The overall winner? "Across all categories, the Xbox 360 platform contributed the most to industry unit and dollar sales," said Frazier, noting that sales of 360 hardware, software, and accessories totaled 32 percent or a full third of September's total take.

Hardware

524k - Nintendo DS
492k - PlayStation 3
463k - Wii
353k - Xbox 360
190k - PSP
146k - PlayStation 2

Imagine Bob Barker shouting "September prices, come on down!" That's the kind of September it was, as Sony and Microsoft each carved 25 percent off their boutique-priced consoles, while Nintendo countered with a 20 percent slice of its own.

"All three console manufacturers enjoyed the impact of lower prices on unit sales as the PS3, Wii, and Xbox 360 realized an increase over August of 87%, 33%, and 31% respectively," said Frazier, noting that September's five weeks were up against just four in August.

The big news, of course, was Sony's PS3, which surged to nearly half a million unit sales after months in last place, more than twice as many sales as last year's. September marks the first month the system's taken the top slot in console hardware sales since it launched in November 2006. "This portrays a very strong consumer reaction to [Sony's] price decrease as August and September both realized a lift of more than 70% over the prior month," said Frazier."

Quietly ticking along at the pinnacle, of course, was Nintendo's DS. It's not the headliner-grabber the Xbox 360 and PS3 tend to be, but it says something about the sort of gamers we are when a single handheld tops the sales charts for six months in a row.

Software

1.52m - Halo 3: ODST / Xbox 360
443k - Wii Sports Resort / Wii
290k - Madden NFL 10 / Xbox 360
258k - Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story / DS
254k - The Beatles: Rock Band / Xbox 360
247k - Madden NFL 10 / PlayStation 3
236k - Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 / Xbox 360
213k - Batman: Arkham Asylum / PlayStation 3
211k - Guitar Hero 5 / Xbox 360
209k - The Beatles: Rock Band / Wii

Microsoft dominated top 10 software sales, holding down five slots and overwhelming the competition with Halo 3: ODST sales. "Halo 3 certainly impacted the industry two years ago when it was launched, and this year, Halo 3: ODST realized impressive sales making it the 6th best-selling SKU launch of all time," said Frazier.

Wii Sports Resort declined from 754k units in August--its high point after July debut sales of 508k--to 443k, a 41 percent drop despite the five-to-four week sales period comparison. It's hard to look negatively on a game with three month sales approaching 2 million units, but that total for a major first-party Nintendo release still seems lackluster when you consider Microsoft's doing similar sales numbers with one game (Halo 3: ODST) in a single month.

The Beatles: Rock Band unsurprisingly dominated in music-game sales, besting Guitar Hero 5 and taking two of the top 10 slots in multi-platform revenue. "Across all platforms, The Beatles: Rock Band came in third behind Halo 3: ODST and Madden NFL 10 while Guitar Hero 5 came in fourth," said Frazier, noting that The Beatles: Rock Band pulled off the win despite "an average retail price premium of 130% to the average retail price for software overall." Altogether, Rock Band and Guitar Hero titles brought the music/dance genre to a 72 percent year-over-year dollar sales increase.

In accessory sales, the Wii Motion Plus was number one, the Wii Remote Controller stood second, and accessories for the Xbox 360 took five of the top 10 slots.

Did The Beatles: Rock Band bomb, as some are opining? I'm not so sure. It certainly wasn't "the most overhyped in game history." Enter the Matrix and Lair or the original Killzone and Too Human have it beat by miles, to say nothing of catastrophes like Battlecruiser 3000AD. Sure, Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter's projections of $120m in sales were wildly off, but then you can't really "analyze" something that hasn't happened, can you. Expressing shock at the sales numbers assumes all the punditry was worth more than an educated guesstimate in the first place.

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