Video game console receipts down, but sales of games rebound slightly

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Video game sales, which have been anemic in the last year, were partially rescued by an Italian plumber and a gunslinger in May.

The dual debuts of Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Red Dead Redemption in May helped resuscitate game software sales, which rose 4% to $466.3 million from a year earlier, according to market research firm NPD Group.

‘The industry grew less than expected,’ said Evan Wilson, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities in Portland, Ore., who had predicted game sales would grow 15% in May. ‘This reflects the continued choppy industry that we have witnessed this year and last. There is no end in sight.’

Topping the bestseller list was Red Dead Redemption, developed by Take-Two Interactive Software’s Rockstar Games studio. Take-Two sold 1.5 million copies of the gritty western title in May. The game’s main character, John Marston, is a reformed criminal who hunts down his former compadres in order to save his family. Next on the list is a game whose hero is the diametric opposite of Marston. Super Mario Galaxy 2, developed by Nintendo, features a mustachioed plumber who zooms around a cartoon universe.


Activision Blizzard Inc.'s debut racing game, Blur, failed to catch on, selling just 31,000 units. The Santa Monica publisher had purchased the game’s developer, Bizarre Creations, in 2007, and Activision had hoped that Blur would become a hit franchise on the level of its Call of Duty series.

Meanwhile, gross sales of consoles, the devices used to play those games, plummeted 20% to $241.5 million compared with May 2009, plunging overall sales of hardware and software down 5% to $823.5 million. It was the industry’s ninth monthly sales decline since May 2009. The dollar declined can be blamed on console price cuts that Sony Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Nintendo Co. have made over the last year.

On a unit basis, console sales rose. Sony, for example, sold 154,500 PlayStation 3 consoles, up 18% from a year ago. Sales of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 rose 11% to 194,600. And Nintendo moved 334,800 Wii consoles, up 16%.

-- Alex Pham