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Video game sales plunge 13% in January, continuing the downward trend

February 11, 2010 |  5:36 pm

Mass Effect 2

After a bloody year of double-digit sales declines, the video game industry appears headed for more of the same in 2010.

Sales of games and consoles fell 13% during January in the U.S. to $1.2 billion from a year earlier, according to NPD Group, which tracks sales of games at retail stores.

Sales of games fell 12% to $597.9 million last month, while console sales took an even bigger hit, down 21% to $353.7 million. Only game peripherals escaped a decline, growing 2% to $217 million.

While January is typically a quiet month for game releases, publishers still count on a sales bump as players cash in on gift cards or shop for games to play on consoles they received over the holidays. NPD spokesman David Rileycautioned against projecting too much gloom and doom: "All is not as bad as it may seem. Titles such as Bioshock 2, Mass Effect 2, God of War III and Pokemon HeartGold will certainly help to position the industry for a strong first quarter in 2010."

This year, however, sales may come more from dedicated, hard-core players rather than economically spooked mainstream consumers, said Colin Sebastian, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets. "The biggest declines last year were in music and casual games," Sebastian said. "If you strip those out, the core game business targeting serious players actually did well."

With mainstream consumers expected to be M.I.A., at least when it comes to console games, most industry executives are warning Wall Street to expect zero growth from the sector this year. Electronic Arts, which reported its earnings on Monday, said traditional game disc sales would decline 3% this year. Activision, which posted its 2009 earnings on Wednesday, said disc sales in the U.S. and Europe would likely be "flat to down mid-single-digits" in 2010.

Enough of the grim news. To see bright spots in the industry, click the continue reading link below for the top 10 titles for January.

Top Video Games for January 2010

  1. New Super Mario Bros. (Wii) 656,700
  2. Mass Effect 2 (Xbox 360) 572,100
  3. Wii Fit Plus (Wii) 555,700
  4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Xbox 360) 326,700
  5. Mario Kart (Wii) 310,900
  6. Sports Resort (Wii) 297,600
  7. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PlayStation 3) 259,000
  8. Army of Two: The 40th Day (Xbox 360) 246,500
  9. Just Dance (Wii) 191,900
  10. Darksiders (Xbox 360) 171,200

Source: NPD Group Inc. 

Image: Screen shot of Mass Effect 2. Credit: BioWare / Electronic Arts

-- Alex Pham