Game sales slump yet again

Video game sales have continued to drop significantly in the US, a trend that’s being blamed on a lack of compelling new releases. But gamers are still estimated to have spent more than one and half billion dollars during the month.

Research firm NPD Group reports that sales revenue from new games in physical format dropped 24 percent from February 2011 to February 2012, down to $485.7 million. Hardware sales dropped by 18 percent to $574 million. That works out a overall drop of 20% for consoles, accessories, and boxed games.

This makes a third straight month of declining year-on-year sales. One theory is that it’s simply a lack of exciting new games, which appears to be borne out by February’s sales chart being topped by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, which came out three months earlier. Second and third place did go to new releases, namely Final Fantasy XIII-2 and UFC Undisputed 3 respectively.

One problem with this argument is that the release schedule for February 2011 doesn’t look particularly stunning in hindsight: the closest to major releases were the first map pack for Call of Duty: Black Ops, and Killzone 3. However, Little Big Planet 2 and Mass Effect 2 were both released in mid-January.

It’s also notable that whereas the 10 best selling games in February 2011 made up 94 percent of all sales, that figure dropped to 78 percent this year, further suggesting a lack of blockbuster releases.

The consoles sales drop is particularly notable as it may have been even worse were it not for the first week of sales of the PlayStation Vita, which Sony has described as “above expectations.”

The NPD figures also show just how much the gaming market now goes beyond new products bought in stores. It estimated that spending on used games, rental services, digital downloads and online game subscriptions made up $600 billion for the month.

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