Tracking results from the NPD Group for new U.S. retail video game sales in November showed industry revenues rising 8 percent compared to the same month last year, the first time that has happened since March.
The industry as a whole saw $2.99 billion in new hardware, software and accessory sales for the month, up from $2.76 billion in November 2009. For the year as a whole, the industry has generated $14.73 billion in new sales; still roughly $650 million, or 5 percent, behind the pace set by 2009.
The year-over-year rise in monthly new retail revenues reverses a seven-month trend of year-over-year declines, which has lasted since a 5.9 percent year-over-year increase in March.
"November sales represent the best November on record in terms of new physical retail sales," said NPD 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."
Based on November numbers, Frazier predicted new industry-wide sales for the entire year would be essentially flat from 2009, coming in at between $18.8 and $19.6 billion.
Revenue from new video game hardware was relatively flat for November, rising only 2 percent over November 2009 to $1.08 billion for the month. That wasn't nearly enough to make up for a sluggish year-to-date pace that is still $550 million and roughly 11 percent behind 2009's.
Microsoft revealed its Xbox 360 was once again the top selling home console in the U.S., selling 1.37 million units for the month, up 68 percent from 819,500 November sales a year ago. Year-to-date, the Xbox 360 has seen 42 percent higher sales than at this point last year.
But Nintendo's portable DS was the top selling system overall for the month. Nintendo sold over 1.5 million DS units in November, down from 1.7 million for the month a year ago. "It appears the DS attracted two pockets of consumers: those looking for a unique limited-edition product and those looking for value," Frazier said.
Nintendo's Wii sold 1.27 million units for the month, according to Bloomberg, changed only slightly from 1.26 million sold in November a year ago. The 2010 number includes 600,000 Wiis sold over Thanksgiving week, Nintendo said in a statement, which represents an increase of 50,000 units over the previous year's Thanksgiving sales.
Sony has yet to reveal November sales numbers for its PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3, which are no longer publicly revealed by NPD.
[UPDATE: Bloomberg reports sales for Sony's PlayStation 3 were down 25 percent, year over year, to 530,000 units in November. Sony points out in a statement that year-to-date sales for the system are still running 5 percent ahead of those at this point in 2009.]
"We expect a big jump in sales in November due to seasonality and the influence of holiday, but the change this November over October is bigger across most platforms than it was last November," Frazier said. "This could point to the impact of aggressive retail promotions during the critical Black Friday week."
The software market as a whole was up 3 percent over November 2009 to $1.5 billion for the month. The slight improvement didn't eat much into a year-to-date new software sales deficit running 4 percent behind this point in 2009, at $7.54 billion for 2010.
Activision's Call Of Duty: Black Ops dominated new software sales for the month, with its 8.4 million units accounting for one in every four new video games sold in the U.S. for the month, according to NPD. The strong sales have already given the title the best launch-month performance in history, and made the game the seventh best-selling title of all time, according to Frazier.
Mega-publisher Ubisoft also had a good month for software, with Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Wii exclusive Just Dance 2 coming in at second and third place, respectively.
Other notable new appearances in this month's sales rankings include Wii platform-game-revival Donkey Kong Country Returns (at number 6) and racing games Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (number 7) and Gran Turismo 5 (number 8)
Strong sales for Just Dance 2 and Harmonix's Dance Central helped raise sales in the music/dance genre up 38 percent from November 2009, Frazier said.
The top-selling video game software for November, with separate SKUs combined across systems, were as follows:
1. Call of Duty: Black Ops (Activision Blizzard) - Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC, DS; 8.4 million
2. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (Ubisoft) - Xbox 360, PS3
3. Just Dance 2 (Ubisoft) - Wii
4. Madden NFL 11 (Electronic Arts) - Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP
5. Fable III (Microsoft) -Xbox 360
6. Donkey Kong Country Returns (Nintendo) -Wii
7. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (Electronic Arts) -PS3, 360, Wii, PC
8. Gran Turismo 5 (Sony) - PS3
9. NBA 2K11 (Take-Two Interactive) - Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP,PC
10. Wii Fit Plus (Nintendo) - Wii
When separate-system SKUs are separated out, Microsoft's Halo: Reach comes in at number 10, Frazier said.
Industry-wide sales of accessories were up a significant 69 percent compared to November 2009, representing $413.3 million for the month. The performance was strong enough to cement year-to-date accessory gains, which are currently sitting 15 percent above this point in 2009 at $2 billion.
The gains were driven largely by the Xbox 360's Kinect 3D camera controller, Frazier said. Not only was the device the top-selling accessory for the month, but after less than a month on sale, it is already the best-selling accessory for the entire year, she said.
Strong sales for the PlayStation Move motion controller, which Sony says had shipped 4.1 million units worldwide by the end of November, likely also contributed to the strong year-over-year growth in the accessory numbers.
NPD did not reveal specific, U.S. sales numbers for either motion controller.