The video and computer game industry suffered its sixth consecutive monthly sales decline in September, pouring cold water on hopes of the industry ending the year on a high note.
Sales of games, consoles and device peripherals totaled $1.2 billion last month, down 8% from a year earlier, according to NPD Group Inc., which tracks game sales. Despite the strong debut of Halo: Reach, sales of software fell 6% to $614 million. Hardware sales fared much worse, dropping 19% to $383 million in September.
In an otherwise grim month, Microsoft Corp. managed to score a couple of wins. Halo: Reach, the latest in the popular franchise and the last in the series to be developed by Bungie Studios, sold 3.3 million copies, making it the No. 1 title in September. Its performance was on par with previous releases in the Halo franchise, according to NPD.
Microsoft also got bragging rights for having the only game console to see a sales increase last month. The Redmond, Wash., technology company sold 483,989 Xbox 360 consoles in September, up from about 352,600 a year earlier.
Sales of Nintendo Co.'s Wii and Sony Corp.'s Play-
Station 3 fell last month, according to NPD, but how much is not known because the market research firm stopped reporting unit sales as of September. Microsoft's sales figure came from a Tweet by Aaron Greenberg, chief of staff of the company's Interactive Entertainment division.
"What we're seeing is the continuation of a sluggish console market," said Colin Sebastian, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets. "That's the trend we should expect for the rest of the year. I don't think consumers are going to suddenly wake up and play more console games, particularly casual games."
"Nintendo, especially, will face some strong head winds," he said.
That's because casual gamers, who are far more price sensitive and more likely to pull back on discretionary spending, make up the bulk of Nintendo's audience.
Complex games that appeal to hard-core fans, such as Call of Duty: Black Ops or Assassin's Creed, are the type that will perform well, Sebastian said.
"If you don't have a top shooter game, you may not be in for a very good holiday," he said.