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Video game industry sales grew 9% in December, 19% in 2008

January 15, 2009 |  5:14 pm
Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime

While other sectors were hitting the reset button during the bleak holiday season, the video game industry rang up a 9% increase in U.S. sales during December, NPD Group said today. The gain was led by a 15% uptick in sales of software including Call of Duty: World at War, Wii Fit, Mario Kart and Guitar Hero World Tour.

For 2008, sales of games, consoles and accessories grew 19% to $21.33 billion from $17.98 billion in 2007. The growth slowed from 44% in 2007, but the tally was better than many expected given the brutal economy.

"Yes, the recession is having an impact," said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities. "But it’s not too dramatic. People are still buying this stuff."

The relatively rosy numbers are a stark contrast to the layoffs and studio closures made last year by THQ and Electronic Arts, two of the biggest players in the industry. "This is not a case of the rising tide lifting all boats," said Anita Frazier, an analyst at NPD Group.

Among the winners were Nintendo, whose Wii and DS consoles continue to run out of stock in stores, and Activision Blizzard, a Santa Monica company whose big bets on the Guitar Hero and Call of Duty franchises have paid off handsomely. EA, the world's largest game publisher, managed to have just one of the top 10 best-selling games of 2008 with Madden NFL 09. THQ, based in Calabasas, was a no-show on the top 10 list.

Here's a quick rundown of the U.S. console sales in December and a list of the top 10 games for 2008.

  • Wii: 2.15 million units
  • Xbox 360: 1.44 million units
  • PlayStation 3: 726,000 units
  • PlayStation Portable: 1.02 million units
  • Nintendo DS: 3.04 million units

The top 10 games for 2008 were ... 

  1. Wii Play: 5.28 million copies
  2. Mario Kart (Wii version): 5 million
  3. Wii Fit: 4.53 million
  4. Super Smash Bros.: Brawl: 4.17 million
  5. Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360 version): 3.29 million
  6. Call of Duty: World at War (Xbox 360 version): 2.75 million
  7. Gears of War 2: 2.31 million
  8. Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3 version): 1.89 million
  9. Madden NFL 09 (Xbox 360 version): 1.87 million
  10. Mario Kart (DS version): 1.65 million

-- Alex Pham

Photo: Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime hears sweet music in 2008 sales of its Wii and DS consoles and games. Credit: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times

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