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Diablo III tops May US game sales, but industry down 28%

Diablo III and Max Payne 3 weren't enough to lift the industry out of its retail doldrums

The NPD Group just sent its monthly sales report for the US, and following a dismal April, the retail picture didn't look much brighter in May. Total industry sales were $516.5 million, down 28 percent, while hardware plunged 39 percent to $138.9 million and software on consoles and portables dropped 32 percent to $255.4 million. Including PC, however, brings the software total $335.2 million (down 16 percent).

That's mostly due to the blockbuster launch of Blizzard's Diablo III. "PC Games sales realized a year over year increase of 230 percent realizing $80 million in sales, which softened the decline in software sales overall," said NPD industry analyst Anita Frazier. "Diablo III is the top selling title for May, the first time since July 2010 that a PC-only game accomplished this feat," she continued. "Since the game launched day and date through digital distribution as well, full sales of the title are some multiple of what is reflected in the retail sales. Starcraft II was the title that topped the best-seller list in July 2010, a testament to the power of the Blizzard brand in PC gaming."

NPD was quick to remind us that its May report only gives us one part of the total sales equation.

"These sales figures represent new physical retail sales of hardware, software and accessories which account for roughly 50-60 percent of the total consumer spend on games," Frazier said. "When you consider our preliminary estimate for other physical format sales such as used and rentals at $155 million, and our estimate for digital format sales including full game and add-on content downloads including microtransactions, subscriptions, mobile apps and the consumer spend on social network games at $420 million, we would estimate the total consumer spend in May to be $1.17B. Our final assessment of the consumer spend on these areas outside of new physical retail sales will be reported in September in our Q2 Games Market Dynamics: U.S. report."

Regarding the continued softness in the retail market, Frazier pointed out that there just haven't been all that many new, exciting games for consumers to pick up at stores.

"YTD 2012, there have been 27 percent fewer new software title introductions into retail which we believe is a big part of the softness we're seeing in May sales," she explained. "A title obviously continues to see sales beyond its launch month, so there is a longer term impact from a narrower array of available new content. That said, we saw some exciting content at E3 that will come to market in the latter part of the year, and when great content comes to market, gamers are still showing up at the stores to buy it."

Looking at NPD's top 10 software chart below, aside from Diablo III, Rockstar's new Max Payne 3 also fared well in second place, as did Ubisoft's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, which took third.

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James Brightman avatar
James Brightman: James Brightman has been covering the games industry since 2003 and has been an avid gamer since the days of Atari and Intellivision. He was previously EIC and co-founder of IndustryGamers and spent several years leading GameDaily Biz at AOL prior to that.
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