US video game sales 'dip' despite mega-launches

Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Image caption Two of the world's bestselling first-person shooter franchises launched a week apart in November

Strong sales of the latest Call of Duty and Halo sequels were not enough to prevent a drop in annual US video game sales, according to research firm NPD.

It suggests sales of hardware and software sold by retailers were down 11% on the year in November.

Nintendo's Wii U also launched that month and Assassin's Creed 3 had just gone on sale. The figure does not include digital downloads.

NPD linked the drop to weaker sales of titles outside the top five.

"Despite an overall retail video game decline of 11%, November had the smallest year-over-year decrease we have seen for dollar and unit sales so far this year," it said in a statement.

"Overall entertainment software units decreased by 15%, however, when comparing the performance of the top five titles from this year to last, we see a rise in unit sales of 5% - games outside of the top five sold less, leading to overall declines."

Figures may also have been depressed by the fact there were fewer releases this November than a year earlier when Uncharted 3, Skyrim, Lego Harry Potter 5-7 and Modern Warfare 3 were among titles that went on sale.

Blockbuster sales

Activision, Microsoft and Nintendo have all been touting the success of their new products over recent days.

Black Ops 2 - the first in the Call of Duty series to be part-set in the future - topped $1bn (£624m; 773m euros) worth of global sales in its first 15 days of release, said Activision Publishing.

It said it had achieved the milestone a day quicker than the movie Avatar did in 2009 - albeit with fewer individual units sold.

Microsoft has not provided a comparable figure for its Xbox-exclusive Halo 4, but has said that more than 50 million games in the franchise had now been sold.

Based on the firm's earlier announcements, that suggests about four million copies of Halo 4 were sold worldwide over its first 30 days.

Meanwhile, Nintendo has revealed that it sold 400,000 Wii Us and its bundled touchscreen controller during their first week of release in the US.

That compares to 600,000 units of the original Wii console during its first eight days on the market in North America.

The Japanese company has a target of 5.5 million Wii U sales worldwide by the end of its financial year in March.

Digital downloads

While NPD's figures provide a useful snapshot of console and disk-based games sales, critics have pointed out that they may not offer a true reflection of the wider market.

Image caption Japan's Nintendo launched its Wii U in the US ahead of other countries

The Penny Arcade website ran an editorial last month describing Valve's online Steam store - which sells PC games - as a "blind spot".

It also noted that sales of smartphone and tablet games were missed out.

However, NPD does provide a separate estimate for non-traditional game sales including downloads, subscriptions, mobile apps, and used and rented games,

The research firm suggested this grouping accounted for $410m of sales in the US in November, taking the month's tally to more than $3.1bn.

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