Video game sales took a nose dive in April, plunging a stomach-churning 42% compared with a year earlier as companies cranked out fewer releases than in April 2011.
Retailers rang up just $292.1 million in game sales last month, down from $503.2 million a year earlier, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm.
With fewer new games to drive people into stores, sales of game consoles also took a hit, down 32% to $189.7 million.
"Simply stated, there were notably fewer" new game releases, said NPD analyst Anita Frazier. "I think it’s a simple as that, because when we see compelling content come into the market, the games are still selling as well as ever. We just saw a lot less of this in April as compared to last year.”
Sales of accessories such as extra controllers held steady at $148.6 million in April, while sales of used games, digital game downloads and online game subscriptions contributed an additional $370 million, kicking the industry's monthly total to $1 billion. NPD, which recently began tracking digital game sales, does not have a comparable figure for 2011.
Analysts speculate that the soft sales figures will lead companies to cut the price of games and consoles in order to encourage buyers.
"April industry sales remain soft, and declining ... volumes will likely necessitate price cuts," Colin Sebastian, an analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co., wrote in a note to investors.
Sebastian said there are bright spots on the horizon as game publishers prepare to unleash some of this year's most anticipated games -- among them Max Payne 3, from Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., and Diablo III, from Activision Blizzard Inc.
"We still expect overall product momentum to improve beginning in May with launches of Diablo III and Max Payne," he said.
For a list of the top 10 games sold in April, click the link below to continue reading.