Wii Tops December Video Game Sales, Overall 2008 Revenue

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Nintendo’s Wii nabbed the lion’s share of December’s game sales, just as it snapped up the lion’s share of 2008 revenue, according to NPD Group’s end-of-year wrap. Both Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3 advanced hundreds of thousands of unit sales each, toward a relatively strong 2008 finish.

The pace of growth slowed in the fourth quarter, as many predicted it would. “While industry growth has not continued at the blistering pace we saw during the second and third quarters,” said NPD industry analyst Anita Frazier, “December's 9% increase over last December brings the year in 19% ahead of last year, and sets a new record for total industry sales."

Despite the quarterly drop-off, December was big business for gaming, topping $5B (yep, billion) in a single month for the first time ever, something Frazier compares to 1997 annual revenues of $5.1B. “And now a single month has realized that level of sales,” she said.

Commenting on industry layoffs and major studio closings in spite of record industry sales, Frazier said “This is not a case of the rising tide lifting all boats,” adding that “The increases are not being enjoyed equally by all manufacturers and publishers.”

Hardware (December 08)

3.04m – Nintendo DS
2.15m – Wii
1.44m – Xbox 360
1.02m – PlayStation Portable
726k – PlayStation 3
419k – PlayStation 2

The Nintendo DS took top honors in December, securing the “first time that any hardware system has sold in excess of 3 million units in any single month” gold. Hardware sales topped $1.88B and rose 36% over November’s $1.21B, but were up a nominal 2%, year over year.

If you distinguish between set-top consoles and their handheld brethren (I don’t), then “The record for single-month console system sales still belongs to the PS2,” says Frazier, “which sold 2.7 million units in December 2002.”

Interestingly, “38 months into this generation of hardware, the three new systems have sold a combined 38.2 million units, whereas at the same point last generation, in December 2003, the three systems had sold 36.9 million units,” says Frazier, confirming what everyone expected – this generation is not only a notable advance over the prior, but when you factor in continued PS2 sales, “52 million systems have sold at retail since November '05.”

Software (December 08)

1.46m – Wii Play (Wii)
1.33m – Call of Duty: World at War (360)
999k – Wii Fit (Wii)
979k – Mario Kart (Wii)
850k – Guitar Hero World Tour (Wii)
745k – Gears of War 2 (360)
629k – Left 4 Dead (360)
540k – Mario Kart (DS)
533k – Call of Duty: World at War (PS3)
497k – Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii)

Software (Overall 2008)

5.28m – Wii Play (Wii)
5.00m – Mario Kart (Wii)
4.53m – Wii Fit (Wii)
4.17m – Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)
3.29m – Grand Theft Auto IV (360)
2.75m – Call of Duty: World at War (360)
2.31m – Gears of War 2 (360)
1.89m – Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3)
1.87m – Madden NFL 09 (360)
1.65m – Mario Kart (DS)

December software sales were up 47% over November, growing 15% year over year to $2.75B. Overall 2008 software revenue rose to $11B, an increase of 26% over 2007 and “more than total industry revenues were in 2005,” according to Frazier.

Punditry about flagging Guitar Hero and Rock Band popularity was shrugged off by what Frazier describes as both titles’ best month on record, with 16% combined total software dollar sales in December.

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