The video game industry experienced a stomach-churning 29% drop in U.S. sales in July, its third-worst year-over-year slide since January 1995, when NPD Group Inc. first began tracking sales data.
The monthly decline, the industry's fifth consecutive drop, means game console and software sales are now down 14% from January through July this year compared with the first seven months of 2008.
To climb out of the red zone, sales from August through December would need to grow 11% from a year earlier, NPD analyst Anita Frazier said.
"While year-to-date results are weak, there are some titles set to be released over the next several months . . . which could help spur sales," Frazier said.
Those include Madden NFL 10 from Electronic Arts Inc., The Beatles: Rock Band from MTV Games, Halo 3: ODST from Microsoft Corp., and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 from Activision Blizzard Inc.
With the current frigid economic climate, however, publishers are instead delaying releases of key titles, shifting them away from the Christmas holiday sales window to avoid being drowned out.
Ubisoft Entertainment, for example, delayed the release of its potential blockbuster, Splinter Cell: Conviction, to early 2010 instead of this year. Activision pushed off the release of a new shooter franchise, Singularity, to next year.
Console sales have also taken a hit, plunging 37% in July from a year earlier. Sales of Nintendo Co.'s Wii console spiraled 55%, its fifth consecutive double-digit monthly decline, according to Wedbush Morgan Securities.
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Top video games
Top 10 U.S. video games for July 2009:
*--* -- Title Platform Copies sold 1. Wii Sports Resort Wii 508,200 2. NCAA Football Xbox 360 376,500 3. NCAA Football PlayStation 3 237,400 4. Wii Fit Wii 164,300 5. Mario Kart Wii 156,600 6. Mario Kart Nintendo DS 132,200 7. Pokemon Platinum Edition DS 116,400 8. Fight Night Round 4 Xbox 360 116,400 9. New Super Mario Bros. DS 101,800 10. EA Sports Active Wii 96,800 *--*
Source: NPD Group Inc.