NPD: US game sales may grow this Christmas, Wii U isn’t an “it” item

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The holiday quarter is under way, beginning the march to December when the video game industry banks on the biggest retail sales of the entire year to fuel the $25 billion industry in the United States. 2012 has by and large been a poor year for video game retail. Sales of both games and consoles have plummeted year-on-year. August alone saw sales drop 20 percent. September brought the first major holiday releases, games like Borderlands 2 which are projected to sell around 4 million copies, but development teams are braced for a rough overall performance.

The NPD Group, a research firm monitoring sales and trends in the video game industry, did have moderately good news for video game professionals on Tuesday. A survey conducted by the firm predicts that video game sales stand a good chance of growing over last year. Of the 3,618 consumers surveyed, 77 percent of them planned to spend the same amount or more on video game goods. While just 10 percent of that total said they would spend more, with the remaining 67 percent saying they’d spend the same amount, that’s a marked uptick from the same survey conducted in 2011. Last year, 9 percent of respondents said they would spend more, and 64 percent said they’d spend the same.

Is it the same level of dramatic year-on-year sales growth seen in the industry between 2007 and 2008 when consoles like Wii and high-priced individual games like Guitar Hero 3 were bringing unprecedented revenue to the industry? Certainly not, but it does indicate potential growth, modest as it may be.

“Watch for more practical purchases this year with consumers buying useful items that they need rather than spending their money on luxury treats,” NPD analyst Marshal Cohen told GamesIndustry Interntational, “Consumers tell us they want to shop more but without the’it’ item and lack of pent-up demand this could be the Christmas of Contradictions.”

The survey bodes ill for two companies specifically, if not game developers broadly: Nintendo and GameStop. The Wii U isn’t readily identified as a major draw in the US at this point, even if the console’s preorders have sold out at a number of chains. GameStop, meanwhile, will continue its downward spiral, losing more and more of the foot traffic in stores that keep its used game sales flowing and, therefore, the business as well.

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