Once again, sales of new consoles boosted hardware revenues at retail stores in the US, but software sales at retail continued to be lower than last year according to the NPD Group’s numbers for February. Overall, US retail sales were up 9 percent over last year, reaching a total of $887 million compared to last year’s $810 million. The hardware numbers are impressive, up 42 percent over February of 2013 to hit $347 million; offsetting the 9 percent decline in software sales (which dropped to $318 million from $352 million last year).
The hardware revenue increase was, of course, driven by rather expensive next-gen console sales. “February 2014 hardware sales increased by 42 percent over February 2013 due to an over 60 percent increase in console hardware sales,” noted NPD’s Liam Callahan. “PS4 led hardware sales in February 2014, but by a narrow margin with Xbox One selling over 90 percent of what the PS4 sold in terms of unit sales. However, with Xbox One’s higher price point it led hardware sales on a dollar basis.”
Microsoft added some detail to this by stating in a press release that the Xbox One sold 258,000 units for the month (ahead of Xbox 360 by 61 percent at the same point in its cycle). Based on Callahan’s 90 percent data point, we can estimate that the PS4 sold around 286,000 units (plus or minus) during February. Of course, this is the US picture, and sales in other countries are a different matter. The US is quite clearly Microsoft’s stronghold when it comes to the Xbox.
While overall software sales dropped from last year, NPD noted that next-gen software was a bright spot. “PS4 and Xbox One software sales are off to a great start through February 2014,” Callahan said. “When compared to the combined first four month sales for the Xbox 360 and the PS3, software sales for the Xbox One and PS4 thorough month 4 are up 80 percent.”
The reason for the decline in overall software revenue is current-gen console software, which continues to lag badly. NPD attributes this to the shift in attention to new consoles. “Despite positive performance of PS4 and Xbox One, the majority of software losses stemmed from declines for seventh generation consoles (Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii), which is expected as we transition from one console generation to another,” said Callahan. Perhaps, but publishers would love to see better sales of current-gen console titles, and continue to hope that Sony and Microsoft will consider dropping the prices on the PS3 and Xbox 360 to goose sales.
Of course, we should increasingly expect to see lower numbers at retail for software as more and more gamers acquire their software digitally, especially on next-gen consoles. Also, more of the spending is going into DLC of various types, none of which is reflected in the retail numbers.
February 2014 Top 10 Games (New physical retail only across all platforms incl. PC)
#1 Call Of Duty: Ghosts (360, PS3, XBO, PS4, NWU, PC)** Activision Blizzard
#2 The LEGO Movie Videogame (360, PS3, 3DS, NWU, XBO, PS4, PSV) Warner Bros. Interactive
#3 NBA 2K14 (360, PS4, PS3, XBO, PC)** Take 2 Interactive
#4 Thief (PS4, XBO, 360, PS3) Square Enix Inc
#5 Grand Theft Auto V (360, PS3)** Take 2 Interactive
#6 Battlefield 4 (PS4, XBO, 360, PS3, PC) Electronic Arts
#7 Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (360, PS4, PS3, XBO, NWU, PC)** Ubisoft
#8 Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (PS3, 360) Square Enix Inc
#9 Minecraft (360) Microsoft
#10 Bravely Default (3DS) Nintendo
**(includes CE, GOTY editions, bundles, etc. but not those bundled with hardware)