US game sales down 11% in November despite Call of Duty

NPD's numbers show that retail is still struggling even with Call of Duty, Halo, and Assassin's Creed topping the charts

While Call of Duty: Black Ops II stormed out of the gate with $500 million generated in 24 hours, and Halo 4 produced $220 million on its first day, The NPD Group's just released November report does not bode well for the holiday season in the US.

Following a miserable October, the all-important fourth quarter continued to exhibit double-digit declines, as total industry sales dropped 11 percent to $2.55 billion in November. Total software sales (including PC) fell 11 percent to $1.46 billion, while hardware dipped 13 percent to $838.9 million. Accessories were down 8 percent as well, totaling $280.9 million.

NPD industry analyst Liam Callahan put the decline into context with the last major console transition period. “It's important to compare this month's results to November 2005, which was the last time the industry began to transition between console generations with the launch of a new platform. Comparing this month's results to November 2005, retail video games sales are nearly twice as big as they were then (+97 percent). This really demonstrates the long-term health of retail sales even as many platforms are quite late in their lifecycles,” he noted.

“Despite an overall retail video game decline of 11 percent, November had the smallest year-over-year decrease we have seen for dollar and unit sales so far this year. This is a sign of momentum going into the December holiday period.”

Interestingly, Callahan also pointed out that Wii U's launch performance compared quite favorably to the original Wii's launch (from a revenue standpoint). “The much anticipated launch of the new Wii U console brought in more dollars than the Wii launch in November 2006, up 21 percent from that launch month," he said. "With an average price 35 percent higher for the Wii U at launch compared to the Wii, this is an example of how consumers are willing to come out and spend when they see the value of the product.”

“Comparing Wii sales from November 2011 to Wii sales combined with Wii U sales in November 2012, dollar sales increased by 76 percent,” he added.

Here is the top 10 games chart for the November reporting period:

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Latest comments (4)

John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam9 years ago
So how did the analysts do? Just a few days ago you reported "Cowen Research analyst Doug Creutz expects November to be down sharply, 19 percent year-over-year", while "Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter was more optimistic, projecting November software sales down just 2 percent year-over-year". The real number is almost exactly half way between those two wildly differing figures.

Although the analysts did make some interesting points about comparing this year's sales to last year's, which aren't mentioned in this article. Creutz "explained that [BLOPS2] was only on sale for 12 days during this November's NPD window, while Modern Warfare 3 enjoyed 19 days on sale for its opening month last year", and Pachter pointed to "a difficult comparison from last November--when software sales were up 10 percent".

So boxed game sales were up 10% last year and down 11% this year, meaning they're pretty much back where they were in 2010, and part of the drop this year is because the latest Call of Duty was on sale for a week less in November than last year's edition.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by John Bye on 7th December 2012 10:41am

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Rolf Moren Freelance Marketing Consultant 9 years ago other words. One more out of ten have started to buy their games online instead of having to get out of their comfy chair and move through rain, snow, winter and smelly people to get their digital fix.
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I've seen a similar story turn up on BBC, with a similar headline:
"US video game sales 'dip' despite mega-launches"
and next paragraph:
"Strong sales of the latest Call of Duty and Halo sequels were not enough to prevent a drop in annual US video game sales, according to research firm NPD."


The decline in retail sales is widely expected as the industry transitions towards digital distribution, and I don't think we're doing ourselves any favours as an industry by publishing articles with misleading headlines like the one on this page: "US game sales down 11% in November despite Call of Duty" that are being carried onto mainstream sites as signs of a decline in what is overall a growth industry.

Could we please order up a little more optimism and balance :-)
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.9 years ago
Paul, I completely agree with you and have raised the same concern in other articles.

The term retail is not expressly limited to just physical sales but the reduction in revenue is.
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