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Console, game sales down 7.6% in November, NPD says

December 10, 2009 |  5:22 pm
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 buyer
Faithful hard core gamers such as Alejandro Medina of Culver City helped keep game sales from having a bad holiday. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times.

Sales of video games and consoles fell 7.6% last month compared with November 2008, despite the blockbuster release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which sold a whopping 6 million copies in the U.S. alone, according to figures released this afternoon by NPD Group.

The game industry sold $2.7 billion of consoles and games in the U.S. last month, down from $2.9 billion a year earlier, according to NPD estimates. From January through November, sales of $14.1 billion were down 12% from the same time frame last year.

For the industry to equal last year's sales, December would have to be up a 36%, leading NPD analyst Anita Frazier to conclude, "Breaking even seems even more out of reach."

The picture would have looked much worse last month were it not for Modern Warfare 2, which accounted for roughly $360 million in U.S. sales, or more than 25% of all game sales.

"This should not be viewed as a healthy start to the holiday season," said Jesse Divnich, analyst with Electronic Entertainment Design & Research. Divnich pointed out that the vast majority of Modern Warfare sales were not gifts but rather self purchases.

That suggests that the console business is being floated by the type of hard-core thumb jockeys who will spend their bottom dollar to buy Modern Warfare 2, Assassin's Creed II, Left 4 Dead 2 and Dragon Age, top titles in November.

"While still a positive for the industry, this does, unfortunately, indicate that sales from casual and non-traditional gamers shrank in November compared to last year," Divnich said.

To lure skittish buyers, retailers have been offering a plethora of discounts and specials. Wal-Mart, for example, last month gave away $100 gift cards to customers who purchased Microsoft's Xbox 360. This month, it's giving away $50 gift cards for those buying Nintendo's Wii. Others, including, Best Buy, Toys R Us and Target, have also been discounting popular game titles to attract buyers.

To see NPD's list of top 10 games for November, click continue reading below.

Top 10 Video Games for November 2009

  1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Xbox 360 version), 4.2 million copies sold
  2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PlayStation 3 version), 1.87 million
  3. New Super Mario Bros. (Wii) ,1.39 million
  4. Assassin's Creed II (Xbox 360), 794,700
  5. Left 4 Dead 2 (Xbox 360), 744,000
  6. Wii Sports Resort (Wii), 720,200
  7. Wii Fit Plus (Wii), 679,000
  8. Assassin's Creed II (PS3), 448,400
  9. Dragon Age: Origins (Xbox 360), 362,100
  10. Mario Kart (Wii), 315,000

Source: NPD Group

-- Alex Pham

Follow my random thoughts on games, gear and technology on Twitter @AlexPham.