E3 buzzkill: Game sales at US retail plummet in May

NPD report shows software, led by Injustice: Gods Among Us, down 44% as total industry sales fall 25%. Software sales were the lowest since May 2000

Coming off E3, the industry has a sense of optimism, looking forward to new consoles, new games and new technologies. The reality of today, however, is that retail sales are dreadful. NPD's May 2013 report shows an overall drop of 25 percent, as sales fell to $386.3 million, while software got hammered, dropping 44 percent to $187.6 million and hardware fell 31 percent to $96 million. Accessories also fell six percent to $115.3 million.

Liam Callahan, NPD analyst, explained, "Overall entertainment software declines, down forty-four percent, were driven partly by sharp year-over-year declines within PC games due to poor comparisons to last year's Diablo 3 release."

"Softness in new physical entertainment software sales stemmed from a decline in the number of new launches, with over 30 percent fewer new SKUs, as well as poor performance of the new SKUs that were released. New SKUs generated over seventy percent less units on a per-SKU basis, and a decrease of over eighty percent revenue per SKU," he continued. "Overall new launch performance in May'13 was poor, down 84 percent in units, decreasing 88 percent in dollars, which was driven by PCs and Consoles as new launches for portables were up 5 percent in units, and down only 7 percent in dollars."

"In May 2013, the top 10 games represented a lower percentage of sales compared to games from the previous few Mays at 18 percent of overall unit sales and 25 percent of overall dollars, compared to 30 percent of units and 45 percent of dollars in May 2012. This is contrary to trends we've been seeing over the last few years with the top ten games generating a larger percentage of overall sales and may be indicative of the weak new launch performance this May."

Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter noted on Twitter that this May's software numbers were actually the lowest for handhelds and consoles since May 2000. The industry clearly needs to do something to drive software sales back up. Publishers are hoping that Xbox One and PS4 are at least part of the solution this holiday.

The hardware side of the industry didn't fare much better than software. While NPD doesn't give us units data anymore, the firm noted that 3DS, which saw sales flat year-over-year with May 2012, represented the best performance. "Nintendo's 3DS edged out the 360 as the top selling platform across hardware and portables. However, the 360 was the top selling console hardware platform this month for the twenty-ninth consecutive month," Callahan said. [Update: Microsoft has now said that Xbox 360 sold another 114,000 units in the US in May.]

Here's NPD's top 10 games chart for May 2013:

More stories

US politicians unveil new bill to clamp down on scalping

The festively-dubbed Stopping Grinch Bots Act aims to give consumers fair access to high demand products

By Danielle Partis

Nintendo Switch had its best week ever in the UK over Black Friday

GfK reveals the big winners of Black Friday, including Nintendo and Oculus

By Christopher Dring

Latest comments (9)

James Prendergast Process Specialist 8 years ago
I'd love to see a new release with an advertising campaign "Only $40!". I wonder how that title would perform in the current economic market...
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
Well, James... remember a few years back when 2K Sports went up with its $20 sports games lineup against EA Sports big games and did decent numbers against them? I do. The funny part was some gamers thought the budget price meant LOW quality (!!!) to the point where I actually heard arguments about how paying $50 for Madden or NBA Live was GOOD because those defenders thought price point defined quality (duhhhh)...
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Caleb Hale Journalist 8 years ago
Wasn't it this website where, just yesterday, I read the tracking of game sales was deeply flawed since no one bothers to account for digital sales? And once again, the chart above states the top-selling games list comes from physical copy retail sales of console and PC titles. It makes little sense to me to even bother reporting these numbers as anything close to reality until the industry puts together a more honest cross-section of sales figures. My guess is if someone were to take sales on Steam for last month into account, some of those Top Ten titles would be bumped.
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (9)
Jaime Wojick Producer & Game Designer 8 years ago
This is logical considering there hasn't been a "big" title released since March. Pubs basically release the last of their quality titles in March to try and make their FY numbers and then there is a drought in compelling product until the fall (generally speaking), so of course sales are going to be off. People are only going to buy games, if there are compelling games to buy. The industry needs to move to a full year schedule rather than the avalanche approach that has been going on for years.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
David Serrano Freelancer 8 years ago
@James Prendergast

At this point, I honestly don't think it would make any difference. If the launch day retail price was the issue, we'd see large spikes in sales as the price slowly drops post release. I believe sales continue to decline because as the development focus has narrowed, and the games have progressively grown misaligned with the preferences of the average player... a growing percentage of the audience has altered their purchasing habits because they no longer see any value in the games. And I don't think the bleeding will stop until core developers and publishers acknowledge this and make the necessary changes.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by David Serrano on 18th June 2013 7:42pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 8 years ago
"NPD report shows software, led by Injustice: Gods Among Us, down 44%. Software sales were the lowest since May 2000."

The game is over. Even those who are in denial must be beginning to see the truth. And this fall's new consoles will not change the situation. The customers have moved on. Plastic and cardboard are no longer where it is at.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
Digital sales, Bruce, digital sales.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Justin Biddle Software Developer 8 years ago
I assume the console owners don't expect physical copies to be the main sellers. But they will be viable enough to warrant it to begin with. No point not making some profit of it while it still sells at a reasonable level.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Rogier Voet IT Consultant 8 years ago
As others point out the numbers are seriously flawed and lack detail and debt. With more and more digital downloads and publishers who do not share data about sales on their platform you never can see the complete trend. Only if you have data combined (preferably separated numbers). So to have a more complete view you would need

Boxed Sales US
Boxed Sales Europe (that is not only the UK)
Steam Sales
Xbox Marketplace
PSN Store
(other paid downloads

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rogier Voet on 19th June 2013 8:54am

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.