The NPD Group says total videogame sales for November declined 11 percent year over year, unless they didn't.
The videogame industry put up sales of $2.55 billion across hardware, software and accessories in the month of November, according to NPD Group figures, a drop of 11 percent over the $2.87 earned during November 2011. Hardware sales were down 13 percent, $838.9 million from $962.2 million the previous year, and accessory sales slid by eight percent, going from $305.3 million in 2011 to $280.9 million this year. Total software sales across console, portable and PC platforms hit $1.46 billion, down 11 percent over the previous year's mark of $1.65 billion.
But that's not really the whole tale. "These sales figures represent new physical retail sales of hardware, software and accessories, which account for roughly 50 percent of the total consumer spend on games," analyst Liam Callahan explained. "When you consider our preliminary estimate for other physical format sales in November such as used and rentals at $207 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 $410 million, we would estimate the total consumer spend in November to be over $3.1 billion."
By not tracking anything but new retail sales, in other words, the NPD Group is ignoring a substantial and growing part of the videogame market, which throws everything into a bit of a tailspin. Used sales and rentals may be declining, but digital is headed nowhere but up, to the point that in July, EA Labels President Frank Gibeau actually dismissed NPD numbers as "totally irrelevant" because of their exclusive focus on retail.
Callahan's "big picture" statement about the overall health of the industry is a bit more insightful. "It's important to compare this month's results to November 2005, which was the last time the industry began to transition between console generations with the launch of a new platform. Comparing this month's results to November 2005, retail video games sales are nearly twice as big as they were then (+97 percent)," he said. "This really demonstrates the long-term health of retail sales even as many platforms are quite late in their lifecycles."
The top ten selling videogames (again, new, physical retail only) for November 2012:
- Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
- Halo 4
- Assassin's Creed III
- Just Dance 4
- Madden NFL 13
- Skylander Giants
- Need for Speed: Most Wanted
- NBA 2K13
- WWE 13
- FIFA Soccer 13