Xbox 360 Powers Ahead, but Sun Setting on Wii?

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August 2010 video game sales slumped an unsettling 10 points, a decline led by a softening handheld market and a drop off in demand for Nintendo products. Both Microsoft and Sony managed gains in year-on-year console unit sales, though the Xbox 360 led the PlayStation 3 by over 100,000 units.

"New physical retail sales of hardware, content and accessories saw another decline in August as compared to last year," said NPD analyst Anita Frazier in a press statement, adding that it reflected the lowest sales for August since 2006.

While all categories were down, from hardware to software to accessories, the portable stable's suffered most. Frazier says portable dollar sales are down 25% year-on-year, compared with console dollar sales, off just 6%.

The year-to-date prognosis isn't all bad. With PlayStation Move and Xbox 360 Kinect on the horizon, look for video game retail sales to slot between $18.6 and $20 billion for the year, predicts Frazier. Last year, video game sales topped $19.66 billion, down from 2008's record-setting $21.4 billion.

Fun fact: The Xbox 360 apparently contributed over one-third of total new physical retail sales across all categories, while the PS3 contributed over a quarter of total dollar sales.

August 2010 hardware unit sales, compared to August 2009, July 2010 respectively.

357k - Xbox 360 (+66%, -20%)
343k - Nintendo DS (-38%, -14%)
244k - Wii (-12%, -4%)
226k - PlayStation 3 (+8%, +5%)
80k - PSP (-43%, -5%)

Microsoft top slot for the second consecutive month no doubt owes much to the system's radical June makeover. Expect the Xbox 360 to hold that spot through September with the hugely anticipated Halo: Reach launching next week. NPD notes that the Xbox 360 install base "is now about triple what it was when Halo 3 was launched so the potential audience for Reach is significantly larger."

The PS3 continues to realize year-on-year gains, but those seem to be tapering off. An incredible lot's riding on Move's launch late next week (Friday), as well as hypothetically Halo-trouncing PS3 exclusives like Gran Turismo 5, though the latter's not due until November 2.

The Wii, on the other hand, suffered its lowest monthly unit sales since launch. While that bodes ill for Nintendo, NPD sees an uptick coming with games like Wii Party and Disney Guilty Party.

And here's August 2010 software unit sales.

912k - Madden NFL 11 (Xbox 360)
894k - Madden NFL 11 (PS3)
125k - Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
122k - Mafia II (Xbox 360)
110k - New Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo DS)

Slotting 6 through 10, respectively: New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii), Mafia II (PS3), Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Xbox 360), NCAA Football 11 (Xbox 360), Wii Fit Plus (Wii).

There's not much else to say here that isn't obvious. Madden NFL 11 dominated, as expected. I suppose it's worth pointing out that Sony managed near parity in software unit sales of this title, despite the PS3's notably smaller U.S. install base. NPD adds that Madden NFL 11 sales "were about 6% higher than last year's in its debut month, but interestingly, all of the gains occurred on the PS3 platform, reflecting the impact of the hardware sales momentum on corresponding software sales."

Of interest to PC gamers, NPD notes that "with over 300K units sold at retail in August, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (PC) would be the second best-selling game for the month if we were reporting on total entertainment software sales."

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