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U.S. video game industry sales rise 3% in February

Consumers are spending more to buy motion controllers and consoles, offsetting a decline in the amount of money spent on games.

March 11, 2011|By Alex Pham, Los Angeles Times

The video game industry received a rare lift in February, with sales rising 3% in the U.S. as consumers dug deeper into their pockets to buy motion controllers and consoles from Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp. February's increase was only the third positive month of the last year for the industry.

Americans spent $1.36 billion last month on games and consoles, up from $1.33 billion in February 2010, according to a report released Thursday by the market research company NPD Group. A 10% uptick in console sales helped to offset a 5% decline in the amount of money that players spent on games.

Although consumers bought more games in February than last year, the average selling price plunged this year, triggering a drop in game sales to $601.4 million last month from $633.6 million a year earlier, according to NPD.

Console accessories, once a sleepy category, surged 22% to $257 million from $210 million, driven in large part by sales of Microsoft's Xbox Kinect motion controller, which retails for $150. The Redmond, Wash., technology giant announced Wednesday that it had sold 10 million Kinect controllers since launching the device in November.

At the same time, sales of portable consoles such as the Nintendo Dual Screen and the Sony PSP suffered a 27% drop as more consumers reached for their smart phones to play games on the go. Nintendo's release later this month of its 3DS portable console, which boasts 3-D viewing without glasses, is aimed at giving the category a much-needed boost.

Among game titles, Call of Duty: Black Ops retained its No. 1 position despite being on the market since November. "It has now become the bestselling game in history, topping Wii Play," said Anita Frazier, an NPD game analyst.

Dancing games also dominated the charts, with Ubisoft's Just Dance 2 and Michael Jackson the Experience moonwalking their way to the Nos. 2 and 9 positions, respectively.

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