NPD: US physical videogame sales decline 22 per cent in 2012, Black Ops II biggest seller

Videogame hardware and physical software sales in the US continued to plummet year-on-year according to new figures published by market research and analysis group NPD.

Boxed game sales were down 22 per cent at the end of 2012, dropping from 2011′s $9.1 billion to $7.09 billion. Hardware suffered a similarly drastic slide of 27 per cent, falling from $5.6 billion to $4 billion. Combined with accessories’ 8 per cent drop, total physical videogame-related sales fell 22 per cent year-on-year from $17 billion to $13.3 billion.

Xbox 360 was the best-selling console for the year, shifting 1.4 million units. Nintendo’s newly launched Wii U, however, has reached 890,000 sales since its launch in November. Scroll to the bottom of this article for the top ten best-selling games.

The overall decrease comes despite aggressive pricecuts across all current-generation hardware, the launch of the next generation in the form of Nintendo’s console, and no shortage of big-budget sequels. Assuming the current rate of descent stayed fixed, then, retail sales will have bottomed out entirely in four to five years.

Retailers will be looking for Wii U’s momentum to build, but also to Microsoft and Sony – both are rumoured to be announcing new hardware this year. If that’s the case, and either or both companies also bring something to market ahead of Christmas 2013, it will offer physical retailers a lifeline.

But 2013 won’t just be about the big three consoles. The current raft of in-development Android-based microconsoles are all due to arrive this year, and those which are successful will likely look for retail partners. The rise of Valve’s Steam Box concept, too, could see retailers traditionally focused on consoles broadening their remit in order to embrace a new generation of user-friendly PCs.

This new generation of affordable, cheap-to-produce hardware could offer attractive margins, though the fact that software sales will be exclusively digital, and through bespoke online stores, will inevitably limit the potential for retailers.

While NPD’s report will make uncomfortable reading for retailers, it also underlines the continued relevance of the market research group’s reports, if only to highlight the shifting focus of the market away from traditional channels. In July last year, however, EA Labels president Frank Gibeau criticised NPD for ignoring digital sales data – an omission he said made the group irrelevant in today’s changing industry.

Annual 2012 Top 10 Games

(New physical retail only, across all platforms including PC)

01. Call of Duty: Black Ops II (Activision)
02. Madden NFL 13 (Electronic Arts)
03. Halo 4 (Microsoft)
04. Assassin’s Creed III (Ubisoft)
05. Just Dance 4 (Ubisoft)
06. NBA 2K13 (Take 2)
07. Borderlands 2 (Take 2)
08. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Activision)
09. Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (Warner Bros)
10. FIFA 13 (Electronic Arts)