COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | A.T. NELSON

Not all bad news for video game industry

In spite of the NPD Group releasing yet another report showing weaker than expected retail sales for the video game industry during the month of September, a closer analysis shows some positive signs among the numbers.

According to the report released Thursday, the industry continued its downward trend in September with overall retail sales falling 6 percent from where they were during the same period last year to $1.16 billion.

Surprisingly, software sales actually rose 3 percent for the month to $630.2 million. However, some analysts tempered optimism over this increase by mentioning that September’s figures were helped tremendously by the release of two big-name franchises.

EA’s “Madden NFL 12” seems to have drawn the most scrutiny in this regard, as the annual refresh of the franchise came a little later than in previous years. The chief concern here is that the later than usual release of the popular football title will unfairly skew the results for September and October.

Nevertheless, this title secured the top spot in sales for the month, followed closely by Microsoft’s Xbox 360-exclusive “Gears of War 3.”

Rounding out the top five were “Dead Island,” “FIFA Soccer 12” and “NHL 12.”

Hardware sales were also mixed, as new console revenue fell 9 percent to $349 million in a year-over-year comparison, while overall sales rose slightly from the previous month.

Among the three major console makers, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 continued its seven-month hold of more than 40 percent of the market by selling more than 438,000 units during the month of September, according to a release by the company.

Sony lagged slightly behind its U.S. rival for the month, only selling between 364,000 and 374,000 units of the company’s PlayStation 3 system.

Meanwhile, in what has become an alarming trend for Nintendo, the company’s flagship Wii console finished well behind both its competitors during September with 240,000 units.

Most agree that this does not bode well for Nintendo, as both of the company’s chief rivals have systems that cost almost twice that of the Wii.

Regardless of Nintendo’s problems, many analysts remain optimistic about the holiday shopping season, which began this month for the video game industry.

Looking ahead, most point to the releases of “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” as well as the release of “Battlefield 3,” as two of the bigger upcoming titles of the year.

There’s also the late December release of EA and BioWare’s “Star Wars: The Old Republic,” which is already being hyped as potentially the largest launch in video game history.

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