The NPD Group's monthly report on US retail sales shows a significant dip in overall sales, but strong performances from Blizzard's Diablo III and the 3DS.
Overall total hardware, software and accessory sales took a dive year-over-year, dropping 28% from $718.9 million in May 2011 to $516.5 million in May 2012.
Hearteningly, the NPD estimates these figures account for 50*60% of total consumer spend on gaming, with analyst Anita Frazier painting a much healthier picture beyond the report's remit.
"When you consider our preliminary estimate for other physical format sales such as used and rentals at $155 million, and our estimate for digital format sales including full game and add-on content downloads including microtransactions, subscriptions, mobile apps and the consumer spend on social network games at $420 million, we would estimate the total consumer spend in May to be $1.17B," she said.
Interestingly, accessories were one area which flourished, noting a 74% year on year increase, which the NPD attributes to the sale of "video game card"s and Activision's Skylanders.
Overall hardware sales dropped 39% year on year to tally at $138.9 million, down from $228.8 million in 2011.
All hardware platforms except the 3DS posted decreased unit sales on May 2011's results; Nintendo's newest handhold managed a 17% yera on year increase.
It was a good month for Nintendo as a May 20 price cut on DSi and DSi XL resulted in a 35% monthly increase in sales.
"In May, Nintendo sold more than 285,000 units of portable and console hardware," the company said in a reaction statement before touting a "strong second half of 2012" highlighted by content showcased at E3.
Microsoft claimed the win again this month with 160,000 units and a press release claiming Xbox 360 as the best selling console of 2012 so far, having outsold all comers for 17 months straight. Microsoft also boasted of "a 45 percent share of current-generation console sales", the latest entry in another streak - 15 months with over 40% market share.
While Sony didn't make any concrete claims, it said the full report showed "strong results" for PlayStation 3 exclusives like Starhawk and MLB12: The Show, as well as "accelerated digital sales growth for the PS3 and PS Vita platforms".
Over all, retail software sales dropped 16% year on year, resulting in a total of $335.2 million. Frazier attributes the dip to a reduction in new releases - 27% fewer than in 2010.
Despite fronting on just one platform, Diablo III managed to take the top of the charts in the two weeks it was on sale.
"Diablo III is the top selling title for May, the first time since July 2010 that a PC-only game accomplished this feat. Since the game launched day and date through digital distribution as well, full sales of the title are some multiple of what is reflected in the retail sales," Frazier noted.
"Starcraft II was the title that topped the best-seller list in July 2010, a testament to the power of the Blizzard brand in PC gaming.”
Max Payne 3 was Diablo III's closest contender, having released within a day or two of Blizzard's RPG, but slipped into second place despite multiple platforms on offer. Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael pachter, who receives the full NPD report, revealed on Twitter that Rockstar's shooter hadn't performed to expectations.
"Max Payne 3 a flop, according to NPD; can't believe Rockstar put off releasing GTA to work on that game," he said.
"Without divulging too much NPD goodness, I can tell you that Max Payne 3 sales were less than 50% of LA Noire's. 8 years in development!"
More heartening is Ghost Recon: Future Soldier in third, despite appearing at the tail end of the month. Dragon's Dogma was another late release but didn't manage to cause as much impact; it's worth noting that it's a new and quite different IP and may cast a long tail as word of mouth spreads. Speaking of long tails, it's nice to see Prototype 2 hanging in there.
- Diablo III (PC)
- Max Payne 3 (360, PS3, PC)
- Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier (360, PS3)
- Prototype 2 (360, PS3)
- NBA 2K12 (360, PS3, Wii, PSP, PS2, PC)
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (360, PS3, Wii, PC)
- Sniper Elite V2 (360, PS3)
- Battlefield 3 (360, PS3, PC)
- Dragon's Dogma (360, PS3)
- Just Dance 3 (Wii, 360, PS3)