After a raucous 2007 that resulted in a record-setting $17.9 billion, the video game industry started 2008 with a slow burn.
Overall January sales of $1.1 billion were down slightly — 6% below January 2007, according to the NPD Group.
Sales of console game systems were remarkably close. The Nintendo Wii sold 274,000, followed by the Sony PlayStation 3 (269,000) and the Microsoft Xbox 360 (230,000). "Given the huge number of hardware systems sold in December, inventory shortages could be the biggest contributor to the softer than expected sales," says NPD's Anita Frazier.
The top selling game was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which sold about 331,000 copies for the Xbox 360; the Sony PlayStation 3 version also sold 140,000. The Xbox 360 version is the top selling game for the third straight month.
Biggest revenue generating game of the month? Rock Band, the Xbox 360 version, which sold 183,800 copies and accounted for $30 million in sales for the month. (Its retail price is $170.) In total, Rock Band has sold 354,000 units — 108,000 for the PS2 and 62,000 for the PS3.
Signs that Nintendo Wii users are playing more than bowling on Wii Sports? The best-selling single item for the month was the Wii Nunchuk Controller which sold 375,000 units in January.
Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime said that game maker's attempts to get as many Wiis — and handheld Nintendo DS systems — into stores for the holiday season resulted in "being tightly constrained from an in-stock position through the month of January."
With hotly-anticipated Wii games such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl (March 9), Mario Kart Wii (this spring) and Wii Fit (by June) on the way, Fils-Aime predicts that the Wii will surpass the Xbox 360 later this year. (Including NPD's January figures, the Xbox 360 has sold about 9.4 million in the U.S., compared to the Wii's nearly 7.7 million. The PS3 is at more than 3.5 million.)
"We expect in 2008 to sell more Nintendo products than we did in 2007," he says. "From a Wii perspective, we have this trio of great titles that will certainly drive a very aggressive first half of the year."