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Video Game Biz Takes Hit in March

16 Apr, 2009 By: Stephanie Prange

The video game business, oft cited as bucking the downturn, took a double-digit percentage hit in March.

Overall video games sales fell 17% to $1.43 billion, from $1.72 billion in the same period of 2008, according the NPD Group data.

Hardware sales fell 18% during the month, software sales fell 17% and accessory sales fell 15%.

“While it might be tempting to jump to the conclusion that the sky is starting to fall on the video games industry given this month’s results, it's important to remember that two very big things are different this year than last,” said NPD analyst Anita Frazier. “First, Easter fell in March last year whereas it fell in April this year, and last March included the release of Super Smash Bros. — Brawl, which went on to become the fourth best-selling game in 2008.

“You might not think that Easter is that big of a gift-giving holiday, but our consumer data shows that 8% of industry unit sales were purchased for the Easter occasion in March 2008, accounting for $121M of that month’s sales. We expect that most of Easter sales this year fell into the April reporting period and we'll see that reflected in next month’s data.”

The hardware sales drop was particularly surprising, she said.

“While it's not unusual for March hardware sales to be lower than February, I thought we'd see higher unit sales on most platforms,” Frazier said. “The Xbox 360 was the only platform to achieve a year-over-year unit sales increase.”

Among next-gen consoles, the Xbox 360 sold 330,000 units to PlayStation 3’s 218,000 and Wii’s 601,000 for the month of March.

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