Welcome back, big sales figures, making December 2009 a gala month for video gaming all around. NPD Group's retail data posted last night and brought warm news after months of sales declines, revealing sales increases in all categories save for game software, which dropped 7 percent from $2.8 to $2.2 billion, year over year.
"The video game industry experienced its biggest sales month ever, besting last December by 4%," said NPD analyst Anita Frazier in a press statement. Read that again: Biggest sales month ever. That's including the best 2008 had on offer.
While it wasn't enough to catch the year up with 2008's overall record-smashing revenues, December's sales rally saved 2009 from an even gloomier finish, leaving aggregate industry revenue 8 points down, or $19.7 billion compared to last year's $21.4 billion.
That said, December was only the fourth month in 2009 to see an increase over 2008, according to NPD's Frazier.
"January and February were both up, and since the decline that began in March, only September experienced growth," she said, though ending on an upbeat note: "The big sales [in December], particularly on the hardware front, [are] a positive move for the industry headed into what will hopefully be a recovery year in 2010."
3.81m - Wii
3.31m - Nintendo DS
1.36m - PlayStation 3
1.31m - Xbox 360
655k - PSP
333k - PlayStation 2
Last December the Wii sold 2.15 million units. This December it sold nearly double that, clocking an astonishing 3.81 million in unit sales, the system's biggest month to date. So much for rumors of the console's demise. Nintendo's handheld DS made smaller gains, selling about 270k units over its December 2008 3.04 million number.
Sony's PS3 was also a record-maker, breaking a million in unit sales for the first time and pulling ahead of Microsoft's Xbox 360 by a notable 50,000 unit spread. NPD's Frazier called it "the biggest month month of sales for hardware on both a dollar and unit basis."
Contrary to popular assumptions about the last generation's performance given the record-shattering success of Sony's PS2, NPD's Frazier said the current generation of console hardware "has outsold the last by more than 9 million units during the first 50 months in the market. "Hopefully, the big increase in the overall install base of hardware systems will bring good things for software sales in 2010," she added, "Especially with the incredible line-up of content coming out early in the year."
2.82m - New Super Mario Bros [Wii]
2.41m - Wii Fit Plus [Wii]
1.79m - Wii Sports Resort [Wii]
1.63m - Modern Warfare 2 [Xbox 360]
1.12m - Modern Warfare 2 [PS3]
1.01m - Wii Play w/remote [Wii]
936k - Mario Kart w/wheel [Wii]
783k - Assassin's Creed 2 [Xbox 360]
729k - Left 4 Dead 2 [Xbox 360]
657k - Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story [DS]
Game sales landed as expected, with New Super Mario Bros Wii taking top honors. Five of the top 10 slots belonged to Nintendo's Wii, including ancient (in game years) titles like Wii Play (5.28 million copies sold in December 2008) and Mario Kart (5 million copies sold in December 2008).
"6 of the top 10 games totaling 20.8 million units for the year were on the Wii platform," said NPD's Frazier, comparing that to 4 last year totaling 19 million units.
On the other hand, while Wii Fit Plus placed strongly in second place, its sales were down sharply from the original Wii Fit's 4.53 million figure last December.
Frazier said that Activision's Modern Warfare 2 "has become the fourth best-selling game of all time," adding that "3 of the top 10 games of all time are Call of Duty games."
Expect Activision's war-footed shooter franchise to spawn a 'Call of Duty 7' any day now, in other words.
Connect with me on Twitter @game_on