NBA Commissioner David Stern, Executive Director of the National Basketball Player's Union Billy Hunter, and everyone else entrenched in negotiations with the NBA's next collective bargaining agreement should take note. After a lockout that lasted 136 days, the NFL approved a new deal and saved football's season, ensuring fan fallout would be kept to a minimum. As a result, Madden NFL 12 shot to the top of The NPD Group's list of best selling videogames in the month of September.
At the rate the gaming population is growing among kids ages 2-17, it won't be long before there will be more child and teen gamers than there are children and teens. Wait, that can't be right. But what is right, according to The NPD Group, is that the population growth of kids ages 2-17 increased 1.54 percent in the U.S. since 2009, while the gaming population of that same age group grew 12.68 percent.
Not only did the games industry post a positive month in November, 2010, it posted the best November ever, getting a lot of help from Microsoft's Kinect and Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops, according to the NPD Group.
Total sales climbed to $2.99 billion, an 8 percent jump from last November. Gamers spent $1.46 on software (up 4 percent), $1.08 billion on hardware (up 2 percent), and $413.3 million on accessories such as the Kinect (up a whopping 69 percent).
"November sales represent the best November on record in terms of new physical retail sales," said NPD industry analyst Anita Frazier. "It bests November 2008 by roughly $30 million, and that time frame was at the height of the music/dance genre sales."
The Nintendo DS dominated the hardware scene, while the Xbox 360 was the best selling non-handheld console for the month. On the software front, Call of Duty: Black Ops became the best selling game in its launch month with 8.4 million units, NPD noted.
Well, physical game discs, it was a good game. You fought hard and had a nice, long reign, but now you’re relics -- destined to be excavated millennia from now and presented as evidence of our time period’s ingenious developments in Frisbee technology. Hear that? That’s the fat lady singing. She’s belting along to the tune of 11.2 million units, which is how many the digital market moved during the first half of 2010. Retail, meanwhile, went down swinging with 8.2 million.
Note, however, that NPD – who presented the report – doesn’t have access to Steam or Blizzard’s sales data. Instead, "weighted and projected" surveys provided a portion of the data, which were – at the very least – accurate in so far as Steam came in first by so many thousands of miles that most of its competitors were technically on another planet.
Direct2Drive, EA, Worldofwarcraft.com, and Blizzard.com rounded out the top five, which sounds about right to us, although we’d still like to see some hard numbers to back it up. Overall, however, NPD saw a 21 percent decline in traditional PC game sales, the blame for which it placed squarely on the shoulders of the already massive casual and free-to-play games market.
So basically, the PC gaming market is like an incredibly unstable dictatorship. One day, someone’s on top, but the next, they’re mysteriously found dead – the cause of death being a far less mysterious knife between their ribs. Then someone else takes over, and the cycle begins anew. Word is, they’re already making an HBO drama about it. And by “word,” we mean we’ve got a cheapo video camera and are willing to pay in whatever you can steal while our roommates aren’t looking.
Gamers prefer physical media, eh? That's what their mouths said anyway, but their wallets are singing a slightly different tune. The NPD Group – who's finally tracking digital PC sales – found that 48 percent of unit sales on the PC in 2009 were of the digital variety. That accounts for 36 percent of dollar sales, which is a smaller portion, yeah, but still a pretty sizable slice of the pie.
Granted, that still doesn't include the mountains – if not entire continents – of cash that have sprung up around games like Farmville, which is on track to rake in a whopping $1 billion in 2010. If nothing else, this proves that the PC marches to the beat of its own drum, and analyst groups are going to have to march a bit faster if they want to keep up.
Also, if you're interested, the report includes a list ranking the most popular digital videogame storefronts. “The winner may surprise you” is what we'd say if we were pathological liars. Here's a hint, though: it doesn't -- and never will -- rhyme with "Splames For Grindows."
We don’t just mean PC games, either. Even console games couldn’t stand against the shockingly legal substance that is The Sims 3. And we’re talking retail sales here, too. That’s console turf! Guys in the audience, we’re sure you once told your younger sisters that playing with fake guns was way cooler than fiddling around with dolls. Well, based on the way The Sims 3 (820,000 copies sold) trounced console best-seller Prototype (419,000 copies sold), we’d say you were dead wrong.
The full PC game sales list is below:
The Sims 3 (EA The Sims Studio, Electronic Arts)
The Sims 3 Collector's Edition (EA The Sims Studio, Electronic Arts)
The Sims 2 Double Deluxe (EA The Sims Studio, Electronic Arts)
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King (Blizzard Entertainment)
World of Warcraft Battle Chest (Blizzard Entertainment)
WarCraft III Battle Chest (Blizzard Entertainment)
SimCity Box (Maxis, Electronic Arts)
Diablo Battle Chest (Blizzard Entertainment)
The Sims 2: Apartment Life (EA The Sims Studio, Electronic Arts)
Prototype (Radical Entertainment, Activision)
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion GOTY Edition (Bethesda Game Studios, Bethesda Softworks/2K Games)
Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Terminal Reality, Atari)
Sickening, really. EA’s Simpire continues its conquest, and even Reel Deal Slots Adventure couldn’t stand in its way. So, how long do you think The Sims 3 will hold its position in the PC sales top ten? For brevity's sake, we'll take the liberty of adding a "billion" to whatever number of months you go with. As a conservative estimate, obviously.
While for some of us, the pricing for Windows 7 is easy on the wallet thanks to the OEM solution, there are others that aren’t too happy due to the retail prices.
According to a recent study by The NPD Group’s VP of industry analysis Stephen Baker, the mostly free upgrade program for PCs bought on or after June 26, 2009 is extremely commendable, but the retail pricing is a bad idea, especially in today’s economy. “Besides the fact that $119 is a price point that fits nowhere in these economic times, it is still way too much for the software,” stated Baker. “… It is in Microsoft’s best interests to erase all vestiges of Vista from consumers’ homes, and by making the upgrade expensive … Microsoft is creating a large disincentive for consumers to move to a far superior platform with a better user experience.”
So what do you think? Is the pricing for Windows 7 too rough on the pocketbook, or is the pricing just fine the way it is?
Nine of last month’s 20 best-selling PC games’ titles contain the word “war” in some way or another, including colonial chart-topper Empire: Total War. Special honors go to Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War II for having “war” in its title twice. Videogames encouraging violence? No way.
Here’s the entire, blood-soaked chart for your viewing pleasure:
Empire: Total War / Creative Assembly / $48
World Of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King / Blizzard / $38
The Sims 2 Double Deluxe / EA Maxis / $19
Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II / Relic / $48
World Of Warcraft Battle Chest / Blizzard / $38
World Of Warcraft / Blizzard / $20
The Sims 2 Apartment Life Exp. Pack / EA Maxis / $19
Spore / EA Maxis / $49
World Of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Expansion Pack / Blizzard / $29
Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst / Big Fish Games / $20
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 / EA LA / $28
StarCraft Battle Chest / Blizzard / $20
Fallout 3 / Bethesda / $49
Civilization IV / Firaxis / $21 (Average)
Empire: Total War - Special Forces Edition / Creative Assembly / $70
The Sims 2 Pets Exp. Pack / EA Maxis / $19
Warhammer Online: Age Of Reckoning / EA Mythic / $29
The Sims 2 University Exp. Pack / EA Maxis / $19
Call Of Duty: World At War / Treyarch / $50
Diablo Battle Chest / Blizzard / $36
With the way mainstream headlines have been going lately, we can’t imagine that “Country X Delcares War on Country Y, Videogames to Blame” is far off.
Nothing against the NPD Group, but if it’d like to stare us straight in the eyes (as opposed to peering directly into our upturned nostrils), it might want to consider duct-taping a few new tools onto its measuring stick – at least, as far as PC gaming is concerned.
The NPD Group recently released its 2008 PC game sales totals, wherein it concluded that our favorite platform is barely puttering along behind consoles’ gold-paved success parade, claiming that PC game sales are down 14% from 2008.
However, to be frank, they’re wrong. This is, of course, because NPD doesn’t take into account sales of digitally downloaded games, microtransactions, or the all-important subscription fee – that is to say, the rippling base of PC gaming’s food pyramid. The group has taken a few tentative steps into this arena with a quarterly subscription tracker, but its results are not factored into these 2008 totals.
Hopefully, NPD will continue to build off the base it’s formed with the aforementioned subscription tracker – otherwise, its descent into total obsolescence (even where consoles are concerned) will be less like a rollercoaster and more like Richard Garriott after they turn the gravity back on.
Fortunately, while this first run doesn’t look so hot, next week’s figures will be more in-depth. Here’s hoping this decidedly negative knee-jerk reaction finds itself looking foolish before too long.