October NPD: Game Sales Stumble, PS3 Tops Xbox 360

Uncharted 2

Sony's PS3 continued to outpace Microsoft's Xbox 360 in October hardware sales according to US NPD Group data, though Microsoft cleaned up in top 10 software sales, claiming five slots and 44 percent of units total. The Wii took top honors overall, but plummeted in year-over-year comparisons, falling from 803k units in October 2008 to 507k units last month.

In a surprise tumble, October video game retail software sales fell to $573m, an 18 percent decline from last year's record $698m. Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter had earlier this week forecast October console software sales would be $620 million, up 20 percent compared to last year’s $515 million.

NPD analyst Anita Frazier put a positive spin on the data, noting October was "the third best October on record, behind October 2007 and October 2008."

"Based on typical industry seasonality, the industry is on track to generate full-year revenues in the range of $20-$21B in the U.S.," she said, a range that would fall only slightly below last year's record sales of $21.3 billion.

On the other hand, she noted economic tracking indices suggest consumers don't feel so hot about their personal finances, which could result in decreased spending over the holidays.

While gamers preferred the Wii and PS3 over the Xbox 360 in hardware unit sales, Microsoft's console contributed most to overall industry numbers (hardware, software, peripherals), accounting for 27 percent of total for the month. The PS3 was a close second, with 26 percent, an 8 point improvement over last October.

Hardware

507k - Wii
458k - Nintendo DS
321k - PlayStation 3
250k - Xbox 360
175k - PSP
118k - PlayStation 2

Sony's PlayStation was the only system to realize a year-over-year sales increase, jumping 18 percent from 190k in October 2008 to 321k last month. The Xbox 360 and Wii decreased most, dropping 33 percent and 37 percent respectively.

"Hardware sales were down 17% in units for the month," said Frazier. "Compared to last month, which was a five-week month as compared to four weeks this month, Wii, PSP and NDS sales increased on an average sales per week basis, while the PS3 and Xbox 360 declined."

The Nintendo DS continues to sell strongly (it's approaching an all-time single-year US hardware sales record for the year) and Frazier says that while overall handheld unit sales are down, "dollar sales are up thanks to an increase in the average selling price of portable hardware generated by the higher price points of the new portable systems and bundles."

Year-to-date sales look worst for hardware, with unit sales off 10 points contrasted with the same period last year. Frazier notes that while the recent price cuts helped, they're not sustaining sales momentum, and that it'll be difficult to gauge the impact of those drops on holiday sales, as "those are always the two best months for the industry anyway, and we'd expect to see a sizeable lift in hardware unit sales as a result of seasonality."

Software

537k - Uncharted 2 / PlayStation 3
441k - Wii Fit Plus / Wii
418k - Borderlands / Xbox 360
314k - Wii Sports Resort / Wii
311k - NBA 2K10 / Xbox 360
271k - Halo 3 ODST / Xbox 360
213k - NBA 2K10 / PlayStation 3
175k - Forza Motorsport 3 / Xbox 360
169k - Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
156k - FIFA Soccer 10 / Xbox 360

PS3-exclusive Uncharted 2 (released on October 13) was tops in software sales with 537k units, though it failed to best last October's Xbox 360-exclusive bestseller, Fable 2, which managed 790k units despite a later launch date of October 21.

Software revenue was off 18 percent for the month, but only 11 points on a year-over-year unit basis, owing to an average retail price decline of 8 percent.

While Wii Fit Plus ranked second, the game actually debuted on October 4, making that 441k figure less impressive. Contrast with the original Wii Fit, which sold 487k units last October, having debuted six months earlier in May 2008. NPD's Frazier notes that "roughly half the sales [of Wii Fit Plus] were generated by the bundled SKU, which points to a lot of newcomers to the franchise." Estimated sales of the original were 22.5 million as of October 2009, which could mean prior version buffs have been waiting to pick it up (or gift it) during the holiday shopping season.

Though you rarely see games like NBA 2K10 covered in the sports-allergic games media, Visual Concepts' licensed basketball game was actually October's multi-platform bestseller, with 575k total units--a 60 percent sales increase over NBA 2K9's launch month sales.

If you follow music/dance game sales, you know 2009's been a tough year for the genre, with steady year-over-year declines. The genre's only generated $53 million in sales this year, year-to-date, compared with $137 million last year, according to NPD. This, despite high profile sequels like Guitar Hero 5 and key launches like The Beatles: Rock Band.

Despite the downturn, expect November sales to be strong. Modern Warfare 2, which launched last Tuesday, turned the biz upside down by shattering launch-period sales records across the entertainment industry. Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed 2 arrives for PS3 and Xbox 360 next Tuesday, along with Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines for the PSP, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii should be in stores this Sunday.

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