US video game industry sees sixth-straight month of decline

The U.S. video game industry contracted for the sixth month in a row in August, with sales down 16 percent from the same month last year.

Total sales for August were $US909 million, according to estimates published Thursday by NPD Group. For the first eight months of the year sales have been $US9.1 billion, 14 percent lower than the same period in 2008. The latest drop for August makes it more likely that the industry will see an overall contraction this year.

Hardware sales fell 25 percent to $US298 million, in part because of price cuts by Sony on its PlayStation 3 console.

"The price cuts implemented on the PS3 and 360 hardware already made an impact on unit sales, despite having been executed fairly late in the month," Anita Frazier, an analyst at NPD, said in a statement.

In addition to the price cuts on existing PS3 models, Sony launched a slimmer version of the console earlier this month -- its first overall refresh since it was launched in 2006.

"It will be interesting to see the full impact of the new price points on September sales," Frazier said.

The Nintendo Wii was the best-selling console in August, with sales of 277,400, according to NPD. It was followed by Microsoft's Xbox 360 with sales of 215,400 and Sony's PlayStation 3 with 210,000. All three platforms managed to increase sales compared to July. The previous-generation PlayStation 2 saw sales decline to 105,900 units.

"There is a lot of speculation about Wii and whether Nintendo will take a price cut as sales [comparisons] to last year show declines," said Frazier. "I do think it's interesting to note that the Wii is still selling at levels comparable to what the PS2 was doing at about this point in its lifecycle."

In the portable gaming market, the Nintendo DS easily outsold the PlayStation Portable with sales of 552,900 units to 140,300.

Software sales during the month were $US470 million, down 15 percent from August last year.

The best-selling title of the month was "Madden NFL 10" for the Xbox 360, which sold 928,000 copies. The PlayStation 3 version of the game achieved third place with sales of 665,000 units and the PlayStation 2 version sold 160,000 units.

Overall the Madden game, which is also available for the Wii and PlayStation Portable, sold 1.9 million copies during the month, said NPD.

Sales of gaming accessories increased 2 percent in the month to $US141 million. NPD attributed the rise to consumers buying additional controllers and other peripherals for their systems.

The top 10 best-selling games in the U.S. in August were, according to NPD Group:

1) Madden NFL 10, Xbox 360, 928,000 units

2) Wii Sports Resort w/Wii Motion Plus, Wii, 754,000 units

3) Madden NFL 10, PlayStation 3, 665,000 units

4) Batman: Arkham Asylum, Xbox 360, 303,000 units

5) Batman: Arkham Asylum, PlayStation 3, 290,000 units

6) Madden NFL 10, PlayStation 2, 160,000 units

7) Final Fantasy Dissidia, PlayStation Portable, 130,000 units

8) Wii Fit, Wii, 128,000 units

9) Mario Kart w/Wheel, Wii, 120,000 units

10) Fossil Fighters, Nintendo DS, 92,000 units

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Martyn Williams

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