NPD Says Gaming Sales Slump in May, But There's One Bright Spot...

June 15, 2012 12:54 PM EDT
The great video game divide is upon us, only being solidified by new NPD data for May.

According to the research firm, U.S. video game sales were down 28 percent from the same period last year to $516.5 million in May.

Hardware sales dropped a stomach-churning 39 percent to $138.9 million, while software sales slipped 32 percent to $255 million. Accessory sales rose 7 percent to $122 million.

NPD's relatively new category, "digital," which includes downloads and microtransactions, saw sales of $420 million. That added a significant chunk to overall sales, bringing the total to about $1.17 billion.

To no one's surprise, PC game sale rose 230 percent, led by the much-anticipated release of "Diablo III." Sitting atop the sales charts, it was the first time a PC game was the best-seller since July 2010.

The top ten video games sold in May were:
  • Diablo III (PC);
  • Max Payne 3 (360, PS3, PC);
  • Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier (360, PS3);
  • Prototype 2 (360, PS3);
  • NBA 2K12 (360, PS3, Wii, PSP, PS2, PC);
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (360, PS3, Wii, PC);
  • Sniper Elite V2 (360, PS3);
  • Battlefield 3 (360, PS3, PC);
  • Dragon's Dogma (360, PS3); and
  • Just Dance 3 (Wii, 360, PS3)
The figures highlight Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Facebook (Nasdaq: FB), and others, market penetration. Digital game sales are huge and software makers like Rovio, Zynga (Nasdaq: ZNGA), and Electronic Art's (Nasdaq: EA) PopCap Games are more than happy to produce.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) said it shipped 160,000 Xbox 360 units in the month, more than other competitors, according to the company. Releases from Nintendo and Sony (NYSE: SNE) weren't immediately available.

Based on the strong digital sales, some might wonder if the next version of the Xbox could be the last one for a while -- a long while. Already taking just under eight years to announce, Microsoft (and others -- we're just using Microsoft as an example) is looking for further cohesion between home entertainment, video gaming, mobile devices, and PCs. This is so important to console makers, some chatter throughout the industry about whether or not to even include a disc drive on the next system was heard. Why wouldn't gamers just want to digitally download games ala "Diablo III?" (Note: Because gamers will probably have a library of games they'd like to play again at some point without having to purchase the entire thing all over.) One pro to Microsoft's strategy is potentially being able to store those old games on a cloud drive which would be accessible anywhere an Xbox is available, leaving console memory free for any new games or favorite games to be accessed without having to necessarily be connected to the Internet.

That said, feeling the heat Friday are GameStop (NYSE: GME) shares, down 0.7 percent on the session. In addition, Electronic Arts and Activision (Nasdaq: ATVI) are also lower.

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