Nintendoâ€™s Wii nabbed the lionâ€™s share of Decemberâ€™s game sales, just as it snapped up the lionâ€™s share of 2008 revenue, according to NPD Groupâ€™s end-of-year wrap. Both Microsoftâ€™s Xbox 360 and Sonyâ€™s PlayStation 3 advanced hundreds of thousands of unit sales each, toward a relatively strong 2008 finish.
The pace of growth slowed in the fourth quarter, as many predicted it would. â€œWhile industry growth has not continued at the blistering pace we saw during the second and third quarters,â€? said NPD industry analyst Anita Frazier, â€œDecember's 9% increase over last December brings the year in 19% ahead of last year, and sets a new record for total industry sales."
Despite the quarterly drop-off, December was big business for gaming, topping $5B (yep, billion) in a single month for the first time ever, something Frazier compares to 1997 annual revenues of $5.1B. â€œAnd now a single month has realized that level of sales,â€? she said.
Commenting on industry layoffs and major studio closings in spite of record industry sales, Frazier said â€œThis is not a case of the rising tide lifting all boats,â€? adding that â€œThe increases are not being enjoyed equally by all manufacturers and publishers.â€?
Hardware (December 08)
3.04m â€“ Nintendo DS 2.15m â€“ Wii 1.44m â€“ Xbox 360 1.02m â€“ PlayStation Portable 726k â€“ PlayStation 3 419k â€“ PlayStation 2
The Nintendo DS took top honors in December, securing the â€œfirst time that any hardware system has sold in excess of 3 million units in any single monthâ€? gold. Hardware sales topped $1.88B and rose 36% over Novemberâ€™s $1.21B, but were up a nominal 2%, year over year.
If you distinguish between set-top consoles and their handheld brethren (I donâ€™t), then â€œThe record for single-month console system sales still belongs to the PS2,â€? says Frazier, â€œwhich sold 2.7 million units in December 2002.â€?
Interestingly, â€œ38 months into this generation of hardware, the three new systems have sold a combined 38.2 million units, whereas at the same point last generation, in December 2003, the three systems had sold 36.9 million units,â€? says Frazier, confirming what everyone expected â€“ this generation is not only a notable advance over the prior, but when you factor in continued PS2 sales, â€œ52 million systems have sold at retail since November '05.â€?
Software (December 08)
1.46m â€“ Wii Play (Wii) 1.33m â€“ Call of Duty: World at War (360) 999k â€“ Wii Fit (Wii) 979k â€“ Mario Kart (Wii) 850k â€“ Guitar Hero World Tour (Wii) 745k â€“ Gears of War 2 (360) 629k â€“ Left 4 Dead (360) 540k â€“ Mario Kart (DS) 533k â€“ Call of Duty: World at War (PS3) 497k â€“ Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii)
Software (Overall 2008)
5.28m â€“ Wii Play (Wii) 5.00m â€“ Mario Kart (Wii) 4.53m â€“ Wii Fit (Wii) 4.17m â€“ Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) 3.29m â€“ Grand Theft Auto IV (360) 2.75m â€“ Call of Duty: World at War (360) 2.31m â€“ Gears of War 2 (360) 1.89m â€“ Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3) 1.87m â€“ Madden NFL 09 (360) 1.65m â€“ Mario Kart (DS)
December software sales were up 47% over November, growing 15% year over year to $2.75B. Overall 2008 software revenue rose to $11B, an increase of 26% over 2007 and â€œmore than total industry revenues were in 2005,â€? according to Frazier.
Punditry about flagging Guitar Hero and Rock Band popularity was shrugged off by what Frazier describes as both titlesâ€™ best month on record, with 16% combined total software dollar sales in December.