A burst of sales in December wasn’t enough to make 2010 a growth year for the video game industry, which saw sales fall 6 percent to $18.58 billion, according to NPD.
The biggest drop was in game hardware sales, which fell 13 percent compared to 2009, to $6.29 billion.
Apparently people are making do with their hardware, and just buying more games.
Game content sales – including retail packages plus mobile, rentals, social and downloaded games – were $15.4 to $15.6 billion – “flat to down by as much as 1 percent when compared to 2009,” according to the firm’s preliminary estimate of U.S. sales.
The top five games of the year were “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” “Madden NFL ’11,” “Halo: Reach,” “New Super Marios Bros.” and “Red Dead Redemption.”
PC games and packaged games at retail sold especially well, increasing 3 percent during the year. PC games rose 62 percent by dollar volume in December, pushed up by “World of Warcraft: Cataclysm” expansion pack. For the year, “Cataclysm” and “Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty” were the best-selling PC games.
Also gaining were sales of used games, downloads, mobile gaming apps and social network gaming, which offset declines in console and handheld gaming, NPD said in its release.
The console malaise didn’t hurt Microsoft, apparently. The Redmond company crowed about the report, noting that Xbox 360 was the fastest-growing current-generation console in 2010, with 42 percent year-over-year growth.
December was also the best month ever for Xbox hadware sales, although Nintendo still sold more DS handhelds in the month, bringing total DS sales to more than 47 million in the U.S., NPD reported.
Nintendo said Wii sales are now over 34 million and the company has “strong momentum heading into 2011” with the 3DS going on sale in March.
“Nintendo has sold more game systems than anyone else for five years running,” Charlie Scibetta, Nintendo of America’s senior director of corporate communications, said in a release.
“Of the quarter billion hardware systems sold in the United States during the past 10 years, Nintendo sold more than half. We look forward to bringing fun new experiences to consumers when Nintendo 3DS launches in March.”
Consumers spent $6.3 billion on the Xbox 360 platform last year, more than any other current-generation console, according to a selective preview of the NPD report that Microsoft issued earlier today.
Microsoft won’t report last quarter’s earnings until Jan. 27, but the company has been saying that 2010 was a blowout year for Xbox. Last week Chief Executive Steve Ballmer announced that 50 million Xbox 360 consoles have been sold and 8 million Kinect sensors were sold in its first 60 days on the market.
NPD said Kinect has been the best-selling game accessory since its launch in early November.
Microsoft’s expecting the sales growth to continue in 2010.
“We expect to sell more consoles next year than we sold this year,” said David Dennis, Xbox group product manager.
Dennis said the business is breaking the usual pattern, of releasing a console and then having sales taper off later in its life cycle.
“What you’re seeing with our platform is something that hasn’t been seen before, the mid-cycle acceleration,” he said.
Here is the list of the top 10 games sold in the U.S. last year: