Dec 20, 2008

Business - Video-Game Sales Remain Robust In November

Mark Long

The research firm NPD Group reports that U.S. retail video-game sales totaled $2.91 billion in November -- a 10 percent jump from one year earlier. Moreover, video-game sales grew 22 percent through the first 11 months of 2008 in comparison with the prior year.

Video-game software sales also grew 11 percent to $1.45 billion in November, and rose a whopping 31 percent to $8.21 billion in the year to date. The latest hard data confirms the results from an NPD Group survey released last month, in which consumers identified video games as the top product category in which they were least likely to make spending cutbacks this holiday season.

Top of the Charts

Earlier this autumn, 64 percent of the U.S. parents surveyed by Microsoft and Harris Interactive said they saw video games as a good way to devote more holiday time to an activity that the entire family could enjoy. Additionally, 60 percent of the respondents to another U.S.-based survey conducted by Microsoft in collaboration with Ipsos and StrategyOne said they anticipated spending the holiday season at home to save money.

For this reason, 81 percent of the parents surveyed said they were looking to buy gifts this year that would entertain everyone in the comfort of their living rooms. Nintendo agrees. "Shoppers are looking for gifts that can be enjoyed by the whole family," said Cammie Dunaway, an executive vice president at Nintendo of America.

According to NPD, the Xbox 360 releases Gears of War 2 and Call of Duty: World at War, topped the video-game charts in November with unit sales of 1.57 million and 1.41 million, respectively. Three games made for Nintendo consoles rounded out the top five best sellers: Wii Play (796,000 units), Wii Fit (697,000 units), and Mario Kart Wii (637,000 units). The best sales performers for Sony's consoles were Call of Duty: World at War and Resistance 2, which ranked at No. 6 and No. 9, respectively.

Building Momentum

Sony is hoping to make further inroads beginning this month by offering free downloads of PlayStation Home Beta -- a 3-D social-gaming community for the PS3 that enables users to create and customize their own unique avatars and interact with the virtual community in real time. "We are committed to providing PS3 users with exciting gaming experiences with PlayStation Home and, together with our partners and users, expand the new world of interactive entertainment as we move forward," said Kazuo Hirai, Sony CEO.

Nintendo intends to keep growing the popularity of its gaming platforms by unleashing a torrent of new releases in the first quarter of 2009, including the latest entry in its popular Pokémon series. "We're building on the momentum of a strong holiday season by offering new and experienced players an even greater library of game titles in 2009," Dunaway said.

Gaming-hardware sales also boomed in November, growing 10 percent to $1.21 billion in comparison with the year-earlier period, NPD said. Among the top three platforms, Wii led the pack with sales of 2.04 million, followed by 1.57 million for the Nintendo DS and 836,000 for Microsoft's Xbox 360. The combined sales of Sony's three PlayStation models reached the 1.05 million mark.

Though Xbox 360 sales lagged well behind Nintendo's console shipments in November, Microsoft said its sales on Black Friday -- the day after Thanksgiving -- delivered a modicum of holiday cheer. The software giant noted that its Xbox 360 console continues to enjoy the highest game-attach rate of any platform at 8.1 games per console.

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