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Game sales plummet by 32% in US during April

A very light release schedule and an early Easter holiday spelled bad news for sales

The NPD Group has released its April sales report for the US games industry, and the numbers for retail are not pretty. Total video game sales fell off a cliff, dropping 32 percent to $630.4 million. Software sales alone really nosedived by 42 percent, totaling $307.2 million (including PC retail titles), while hardware fell 32 percent to $189.7 million.

While retail alone does not paint a nice picture for the business, NPD stressed that new physical retail generates about 65 percent of total sales, and what NPD calls the total consumer spend actually came to $1.0 billion for April - this includes used games, rentals, full game digital downloads, DLC, subscriptions, mobile games and social games.

Regarding the retail softness, NPD analyst Anita Frazier commented, "This year, Easter fell very early in April, which means most Easter-related purchases may have fallen into March this year, whereas last year, Easter fell late in April causing most sales to fall in that month. We usually find that Easter-related purchases generate an extra 10 percent in revenue in the month they occur, so some of the softness compared to last April could be attributed to the shift in Easter timing."

She also remarked on the lack of compelling triple-A games in the market. "I think what the new physical retail content sales reflect a very light release schedule in terms of the amount of compelling new games. Last April, the top seven titles outsold the top-selling title this year, and, simply stated, there were notably fewer new market introductions," she said. "I think it's a simple as that because when we see compelling content come into the market, the games are still selling as well as ever - we just saw a lot less this April as compared to last."

Looking at the NPD chart, Activision's Prototype 2 was one of the few new releases to make a splash. Kinect Star Wars also performed reasonably well, and Frazier noted that interest in the title also drove higher sales for Microsoft's Star Wars Kinect 360 bundle. And while not on the top 10 chart, Frazier also pointed out that Nintendo's Kid Icarus: Uprising for 3DS "ranked among the top 10 SKU's for the month, and would have made the list if we were reporting on SKU rather than total title level."

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James Brightman

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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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