According to a new report from the market researching NPD Group, physical video game sales during February 2012 amounted to just over one billion dollars, but that’s a sharp drop from $1.33 billion during February 2011. Down 24 percent during the month, sales of physical discs amounted to approximately $485 million. However, NPD analyst Anita Frazier estimates that consumers spent between $550 to $600 million on digital distributed video games on services like Valve’s Steam and Electronic Arts Origin, subscriptions to MMORPG games, rentals from Gamefly and Redbox, mobile games on the iPhone, virtual items such as in-game currency and used games.
While Microsoft continued a 14-month streak with the top selling video game console in North America, hardware sales fell by 18 percent compared to the previous year even with the launch of the new PlayStation Vita handheld gaming system. According to Microsoft, the company sold approximately Xbox 360 consoles during February.
Alternatively, Nintendo claims to have sold 262,000 3DS handhelds and 228,000 Wii consoles. While Sony hasn’t released specific numbers for the PlayStation 3, estimates from Sony regarding the PlayStation Vita put the total number of handheld gaming systems sold at approximately 620,000 units between North America, Europe and Australia.
The top three selling video games for February include Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Square’s Final Fantasy XIII-2 and THQ’s UFC Undisputed 3. Other games within the top ten include Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Just Dance 3, NBA 2K12, Soul Calibur V, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Twisted Metal and Battlefield 3. Interestingly, zero PlayStation Vita titles cracked the top ten list.
March is expected to be a strong month for physical video game sales with the launch of Electronic Arts Mass Effect 3, Nintendo’s Mario Party 9, Konami’s Silent Hill Downpour and Capcom’s Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. According to Electronic Arts, Mass Effect 3 sold nearly 900,000 copies within the first 24 hours of release and the added downloadable content ratio to sales of the game is estimated at 40 percent. Sales of the game alone amount to at least $54 million during the first day of release.
Downloadable content have been a topic of much contention among the gaming community in regards to Mass Effect 3. Just yesterday, the Escapist noted that files for day-one downloadable content are included on retail copies of Mass Effect 3 discs. Bioware game’s director Casey Hudson had previously claimed on Twitter that DLC wasn’t being worked on until the game was “content complete,” a term used to signify that the game is finished and ready for bug-fixing, certification, manufacturing and shipping.
Data found on the game disc includes voice files for the Prothean squad member unlocked within the From Ashes DLC pack in addition to character model and animation files for the extra character. While the files couldn’t be inspected due to encryption, the file sizes were fairly identical to similar files for other characters within the game. If these files were developed after the game was “content complete,” the files would need to be downloaded rather than accessed directly from the game disc. The inclusion of the files on the disc points to a scenario where Bioware and Electronic Arts purposely withheld a game character in order to encourage consumers to purchase the more expensive collector’s edition of Mass Effect 3 or charge Mass Effect 3 fans an additional $10 for the DLC pack.