Video game sales drop 26% in April from previous year

Sales of video games plunged 26% in April, the fourth-largest percentage drop ever, as players had fewer new games to choose from and ardor cooled for Nintendo Co.'s new hand-held DS game console.

The game industry racked up $766 million in sales last month, down from $1 billion in April of last year, according to figures released Thursday from the NPD Group Inc., a market research firm.

Sales of consoles suffered a 37% decline to $249 million, mostly because of a steep decline in the sale of the DS. Nintendo sold just 440,800 of the hand-held devices last month, compared with more than a million a year earlier.

Game sales also took a hit. Publishers rang up $399 million in sales, down 22% from $512 million last year. The bestselling title for the month, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction, sold less than half a million units.


Another possible reason for the lackluster month — there were only a quarter as many releases as in April 2009.

Analysts said consumers were turning to free social games or snack-sized iPhone games that cost a couple of dollars a pop instead of $40 to $60 per console game.

“There’s a lot of competition for people’s time,” said Colin Sebastian, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets. “The idea of spending $60 on a game is appealing to a smaller market. The more mainstream consumer is turning to digital and casual games on Facebook and iPhone.”