Port Washington, N.Y. — Despite the economic meltdown, first-quarter video game sales remained even with 2008 levels, although overall sales in March dropped around 17 percent, according to research released by The NPD Group.
According to an NPD gaming industry report issued Thursday, total first-quarter video game revenue in the U.S. reached $4.25 billion, in line with 2008 numbers for the period. The firm said gaming software sales were down slightly for the quarter but console sales, led by Nintendo’s Wii and the Xbox 360, saw a 1 percent increase.
March sales were dimmer, however, as revenue from games and consoles each fell between 17 percent and 18 percent, to $1.43 billion overall.
NPD attributed some of the decline to numbers that were inflated in March 2008 by the release of the popular game Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
For consoles, sales of Nintendo’s Wii again led all platforms for March, though sales were down from a year ago. However, Microsoft’s Xbox 360, bolstered by recent price cuts, was the only console to show growth with sales up 25 percent for the month, Microsoft said.
Nintendo said its systems accounted for 58.4 percent of the video game hardware sold in March, as the Wii console reached nearly 601,000 units, while Nintendo DS sold more than half a million, even in advance of the April 5 launch of the new Nintendo DSi system.
Microsoft's Xbox 360, meanwhile, ranked No. 2 with 330,000 units in March, while Sony's PlayStation3 was third, with 218,000 units.
As for handheld players, Nintendo's DS was the top-selling console at 563,000 units, while Sony's PlayStationPortable registered 168,000 sales.
Early U.S. sales of the new Nintendo DSi hand-held system are ahead of those for Nintendo DS Lite, according to Nintendo’s internal tracking numbers. In its first week, Nintendo DSi sold 435,000 units in the United States. After the same amount of time, the Nintendo DS Lite had sold 226,300 systems, Nintendo said.
As for March software sales, Capcom's Resident Evil 5 was the best-selling video game at 1.5 million units for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation3, according to NPD.
Nintendo saw four of its games reach the top 10 best sellers, including Pokémon Platinum Version at No. 2 (805,000 units sold), Wii Fit at No. 3 (541,000 sold), Wii Play at No. 8 (281,000 sold) and Mario Kart Wii at No. 9 (278,000 sold), Nintendo said.
Microsoft's Halo Wars was the No. 3 top selling game.
For Sony, strong-selling games in March included three PlayStation3 titles — the aforementioned Resident Evil 5, MLB’09 The Show and Killzone — each of which ranked in top ten.
Sales of MLB’09 The Show topped last year’s release by over 45 percent in the period, Sony said.