Nintendo, Microsoft Boosted Video Game Sales in March

After months of declining sales, the video game industry posted positive gains for March, bolstered by strong sales of software and accessories. However year-to-date sales trail 2009 sales by 7 percent.

After several months of sales declines, the video game industry posted some good news for the month of March, recording a 6 percent rise in overall sales compared with the same period last year.

According to The NPD Group, which tracks the industry's economic performance, the sales in March totaled $1.52 billion, up from $1.44 billion in March 2009. While hardware sales slipped 4 percent year over year, to $440.5 million from $457.1 million, software sales rose 10 percent and sales of video game accessories rose 11 percent. Year-to-date (YTD) overall sales were still running 7 percent behind 2009 totals, NPD reported.

Nintendo once again led the field in hardware sales, with the company's motion-sensitive Wii console claiming the top console spot with 557,500 units sold. The portable DS handheld device led in that category as well, with 700,800 units sold. Microsoft claimed second place in the console category with 338,400 Xbox 360s sold, followed by Sony's PlayStation 3 console, which moved 313,900 units in March. The company's decade-old PlayStation 2 continued to sell, moving 118,000 units. The Sony PlayStation Portable sold nearly 120,000 units, NPD reported.

"Excluding September 2009, which was up close to 1 percent, March 2010 represents the first overall revenue increase for the industry outside of the holiday timeframe since February 2009," said NPD analyst Anita Frazier. "Drilling into the data, we see prices were down 16 percent for console hardware, flat for console software, and up for all other categories. Lower prices exacerbate decline in dollar sales for console hardware, so while unit sales were down only 5 percent, dollar sales were down 12 percent due to declining average retail prices."
On the software side, sales posted a 10 percent gain over the same period last year, bringing in $875.3 million in sales, and narrowing the YTD gap to 5 percent. Nintendo held four of the top 10 best-selling software spots, while Sony's publishing arm claimed the pole position with God of War III, selling 1.1 million copies (including collector's editions and bundles).
"God of War III bested the introduction of God of War II by 32 percent. Thanks in large part to its multiplatform launch on Xbox 360 and PS3, Final Fantasy 13 is the best launch for any item in the franchise," Frazier said. "The next closest was Final Fantasy XII, a PS2 exclusive, which launched and sold 896K units in November '06. FFXIII sales in its introduction month were 48 percent greater than that of FFXII."
Frazier also noted that in its first month of sales in the United States, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 bested the launch of Battlefield: Bad Company by more than 170 percent. Even considering that the first was launched later in its introduction month while BC2 enjoyed nearly a full month of sales, the increase is impressive. "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is now the second-best-selling game of all time, after Wii Play," she said.