NPD: Video Game Sales Fell 17 Pct in March

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Market research firm NPD, sales of video game hardware and software were down 17 percent in March 2009 compared to the same month a year ago, racking up $792.8 million in sales. Taken on its own, sales of video game hardware for the same period were down 18 percent compared to a year ago, puling in $455.6 million.

NPD is quick to categorize the numbers as potentially anomalous, since March of 2008 saw the release of Super Smarch Bros. Brawl on the Nintendo Wii, which made sales in March 2008 somewhat outsized compared to a “typical” March. Also, in 2008 easter fell during March, which may have boosted some gift sales. However, the downturn in sales is making some industry watchers wonder of the economic doldrums aren’t also having a significant impact on the video gaming industry, which so far has seemed relatively immune to the downturn.

Overall, the Nintendo Wii was (surprise surprise) the winner among the game consoles, selling 601,000 units during the month, compared to the Xbox 360 at 330,000 units and the PlayStation 3 with 218,000 units. The figures are significant because it’s the first time the Nintendo Wii did not show year-on-year growth: of the major consoles, only the Xbox 360 sold more units during March 2009 than it did during March 2008. In fact, after consistently outselling the PlayStation 3 in Japan by enormous factors, the PlayStation 3 recently managed to outsell the Nintendo Wii in Japan for the first time (owing to the released of much-anticipated games), which may indicate the Wii is starting to approach market saturation. For its part, Nintendo doesn’t seem worried, noting the console has several new titles on the way and expects hardware sales will be bolstered by those launches.

Sony also managed to sell 112,000 PlayStation 2 systems, although the data only reflect a couple days of the PS2 being on sale at its new $99.99 price point.

Among handheld gaming devices, the Nintendo DS moves 805,000 units, while Sony managed to sell 168,000 PlayStation Portables. Nintendo launched its Nintendo DSi handheld in the United States on April 5, and says it managed to sell 435,000 units during the first week of sales.

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