Black Ops still dominates despite January sales dip

The latest US games industry sales figures are in from the NPD. The figures below represent the January sales period, typically a tough month at retail in the post-Christmas lull. Whilst there are always numerous economic forces at play, keeping an eye on US trends is a quick way to assess the overall global health and performance of the video gaming industry.

It is interesting to note that for January 2011 overall hardware and software sales through the physical retail channel have declined over January 2010. In contrast accessories sales have risen, likely due to the Sony Move and Microsoft Kinect.

Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops continues to reign on the top of the sales charts. However this is the only Activision title to feature in the top 10. With their recent canning of the Guitar Hero franchise (a poor decision in the eyes of many analysts) it remains to be seen if Activision can comfortably rest on the laurels of the CoD franchise.

EA will likely be pleased to see Dead Space 2 occupying third position. Dead Space 1, although well-received by critics, struggled to make sales, barely managing to shift 1 million units around the globe within three months of launch. Things are looking up with Dead Space 2.

Sony makes a strong showing with both Little Big Planet 2 and DC Universe Online. The new superhero MMO DC Universe launched on 11 January in North America to mixed critical reaction and it will be interesting to see if it can retain its position on the top charts through February.

While big AAA ‘core gamer’ releases are well represented in the sales chart, it is interesting to note that motion control based games and portable games are making a strong showing, highlighting the strength of this segment of the gaming market.

As always, these sales figures only represent the physical retail channel. Meanwhile there is a thriving digital distribution sector – it was recently estimated that Steam turned over US$970 million (±R7,044 billion) in revenue during the course of 2010. This means that Steam alone could contribute an approximate average of US$80 million to software sales each month.

Below is the full breakdown of NPD sales figures for January 2011.

NPD Group’s U.S. Games Industry Sales (New Physical Sales Channel*) – January 2011 – 4-week reporting period: 1/2/11 through 1/29/2011
Dollar Sales Jan ’10 Jan ’11 CHG
Total US Games Sales (New Physical Channel) $1.22B $1.16B -5%
Includes Total Content Sales (Console+Portable+PC – New Physical Channel), Video Games Hardware, and Accessories. Details below:
Total Video Game Sales (New Physical Channel) $1.18B $1.14B -4%
Video Games Hardware $353.7MM $324.0MM -8%
Video Games Software (Console+Portable. New Physical Sales only) $606.8MM $576.0MM -5%
Video Games Accessories $222.8MM $235.1MM 6%
Total Software Sales – (Console+Portable+PC – New Physical Channel) $644.9MM $603.1MM -6%
Top 10 Games (New Physical Retail only; across all platforms incl. PC) Rank Publisher
Call of Duty: Black Ops* (360, PS3, WII, NDS, PC) 1 Activision Blizzard
Just Dance 2 (WII) 2 Ubisoft
Dead Space 2* (360, PS3, PC) 3 Electronic Arts
Little Big Planet 2* (PS3) 4 Sony
Zumba Fitness: Join the Party (WII, 360, PS3) 5 Majesco
NBA 2K11 (360, PS3, PSP, WII, PS2, PC) 6 Take 2 Interactive
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood* (360, PS3) 7 Ubisoft
Dance Central (360) 8 MTV Games
Michael Jackson The Experience* (WII, DS, PSP) 9 Ubisoft
DC Universe Online: The Next Legend Is You* (PS3, PC) 10 Sony
*NPD’s monthly point-of-sale data reports on U.S. Games Industry Sales occurring from new physical purchases at retail which is the largest channel for games sales, but it does not represent 100% of industry sales; it does not account for consumer purchases made via digital distribution, used game sales, subscriptions, mobile game apps, rentals, or social network games. NPD’s Games Industry: Total Consumer Spend, a new report on the total consumer spend against the games industry, will be issued quarterly and will be NPD’s official estimate of the consumer spend on the industry going forward.

**(includes CE, GOTY editions, bundles, etc. but not those bundled with hardware)

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Black Ops still dominates despite January sales dip