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Video game industry sales soared in May as coronavirus kept players playing

The U.S. video game industry remained strong in May, as both hardware and software sales soared and accessories sales set new records.

American consumers spent $977 million on consoles, video games, and accessories in May, NPD reported on Friday, a 52% year-over-year gain compared to the $642 million consumers spent in May 2019. Console sales were up 56% year-over-year to $235 million and video game sales skyrocketed by 67% to $438 million. Accessories revenue topped $304 million, a 32% surge year-over-year.

While NPD doesn’t share unit sales information, analyst Mat Piscatella said the Nintendo Switch was last month’s top-selling hardware, topping the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Gamepad, headset, and steering wheels all set new sales records last month, but Microsoft’s $180 Xbox Elite Series 2 Wireless Controller was the month’s top-selling accessory.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was the top-selling video game last month, regaining the top spot from April winner Final Fantasy VII: Remake, which dropped to eighth place in May. Call of Duty: Modern Warfares continued success has propelled it to the top-selling game so far this year, and the best-selling title over the past 12 months, Piscatella said.

Grand Theft Auto V may have initially hit store shelves in 2013, but it was the second-best-selling video game last month, followed by Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons. NBA 2K 20 and Mortal Kombat 11 rounded out the top five, according to NPD.

The data clearly shows another strong month for the video game industry, which has surged since the coronavirus pandemic swept across the globe and players locked inside by shelter-in-place orders increasingly turned to video games.

When the pandemic started, it wasn’t immediately clear whether game sales would surge. The lockdowns have wreaked havoc on developer timelines, some titles have been delayed, and there’s been a drop-off in major releases. And with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X slated for a holiday launch, a lull in current-generation consoles seemed reasonable.

But the industry’s success hasn’t only been relegated to May. So far this year, gamers have spent $5.5 billion in the U.S. on video game hardware, software, and accessories, an 18% jump compared to the same period last year. Console sales have been especially strong, and have surged 34% from $1.1 billion last year to $1.4 billion through May.

NPD’s data includes retail console and physical video game sales. It also provides a subset of digital game downloads collected from a variety of publishers, including Activision Blizzard, Microsoft, and Sony.

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Don Reisinger
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology, video game, and entertainment journalist. He has been writing about the world of…
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