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Recession takes chunk out of game sales

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"Recession-proof" ain't what it used to be. First Google's secret money making machine starts coughing up smoke, and now the video games industry takes a hit.

What's next, recession? Rainbows and unicorns going broke?

March sales for the games industry as a whole dropped 17 per cent compared to a year ago, according to NPD Group. That's the first time during this recession the games biz suffered a drop in revenues.

Overall, the industry saw about $1.43bn in sales during the month, compared to $1.72bn in March 2008. Software sales dropped 17 per cent year-over-year to $792.8m and hardware sales fell 18 per cent to $455.6m.

NPD correctly notes, however, that March 2008 saw the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii, which went on to become the fourth best-selling game that year. That tosses a bit of a wrench into comparing sales year-over-year, but NPD may be giving one game too much credit. March 2009 had some potentially big releases too, most notably additions to the popular Resident Evil, Pokemon, and Halo franchises.

The bean counting firm also attributes the sales dip to Easter falling in March last year, whereas it was in April this time around. Apparently, the Easter Bunny has been known to squeeze out the occasional video game disk along with her usual repertoire of chocolate eggs. NPD claims Easter accounted for $121m in sales last year, with the following breakdown for consoles:

  1. Nintendo Wii: 601,000 units
  2. Nintendo DS: 563,000 units
  3. Microsoft Xbox 360: 330,000 units
  4. Sony Playstation 3: 218,000 units
  5. Sony PSP: 168,000 units
  6. Sony Playstation 2: 112,000 units

Per usual, Nintendo's Wii beat the snot out of every other company's consoles. But the surprise here is that Microsoft's Xbox 360 was the only console to achieve year-over-year growth. Xbox 360 sales increased 25 per cent compared to March of last year. In comparison, Wii numbers dropped about 14 per cent and the PS3 slipped about 13 per cent.

On games, NPD ranked the top-10 software sales as follows:

  1. Resident Evil 5, Xbox 360, 938,000 units
  2. Pokemon Platinum Version, Nintendo DS, 805,000 units
  3. Halo Wars, Xbox 360, 639,000 units
  4. Resident Evil 5, PS3, 585,000 units
  5. Wii Fit w/ Balance Board, Wii, 541,000 units
  6. MLB '09: The Show, PS3, 305,000 units
  7. Killzone 2, PS3, 296,000 units
  8. Wii Play w/ Remote, Wii, 281,000 units
  9. Mario Kart w/ Wheel, Wii, 278,000 units
  10. Major League Baseball 2k9, Xbox 360, 205,000 units

Guess we'll see next month if the Easter Bunny laid the missing cash in the games industry's basket for April. ®

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