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June 13, 2011 at 3:49 PM

Game sales plunge, Xbox gains, NPD says

Video game sales dove 14 percent in May, nearly erasing the 20 percent gain seen in April, according to NPD’s latest report on U.S. game sales.

It was the worst showing since October 2006, pulled down by a slim lineup of new games, the firm said.

The research firm politely waited until after the E3 show to release the data, which would have cast a shadow over the event and changed the tenor of its press coverage.

Total sales were $743.1 million, down 14 percent from $866.8 million last year.

Game software sales were $400.1 million, down from $503.8 million in May 2010. But the report only includes physical games, hardware and accessories and not digital downloads, NPD analyst Anita Baker noted in the release.

“Keeping in mind that these sales figures represent just the new physical portion of the market for video game hardware, software, and accessories and not the growing portion of the industry that is comprised of digital format content distribution, May 2011 was the lowest month of sales for the industry since October 2006. A light slate of new releases is at the heart of this month’s performance.”

“Overall, the Xbox 360 platform has contributed 34% of year-to-date revenues (across hardware, content and accessories) generated by new physical retail sales, gaining 7 share points over last year.”

Baker said there were 42 new titles, but SKU, last month, compared to 58 in May 2010 and 72 in May 2009. This in turn reduced promotional activity and advertising, “which undoubtedly affected not only planned but impulse purchases.”

All platforms saw declines except the Xbox 360, which was about flat – posting a 1 percent gain. The Xbox has accounted for 34 percent of physical game sales year-to-date, a share increase of 7 percent over last year, NPD said.

Microsoft said the Xbox 360 platform accounted for $265 million in retail sales in May.

Sony’s PlayStation 3 and PSP also gained during the month and Nintendo’s 3DS sales were “light” though NPD’s expect a bump with the “Zelda” game for the 3D handheld.

Here are May’s top 10 games in retail, in order of sales:

L.A. Noire (360, PS3)

Brink (360, PS3, PC)

Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game (Wii, 360, NDS, PS3, 3DS, PSP, PC)

Portal 2 (360, PS3, PC)

Mortal Kombat 2011 (PS3, 360)

Call of Duty: Black Ops (360, PS3, Wii, NDS, PC)

Zumba Fitness: Join the Party (Wii, 360, PS3)

NBA 2K11 (360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, PC)

Just Dance 2 (Wii)

Lego Star Ware III: The Clone Wars (Wii, NDS, 360, PS3, 3DS, PSP, PC)

Comments | Topics: Games & entertainment, Microsoft, Nintendo

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