February may be the month of hearts and love, but only one of those things was in evidence at busy retail shelves (and those online outlets) reporting to our friends at The NPD Group. Once gain, our number-crunchers Cory Galliher and Nathan Evans take NPD’s monthly report on the gaming industry’s relative health and viability in America to task, calculating and analyzing all those funky digits into an easily palatable paste for your listening pleasure. February 2019 was an interesting month for such things, though not for everyone. Let’s explore!
Total sales of new gaming hardware and software experienced a slight 4 percent uptick over last year ($1.047 billion over $1.007 billion), enough to justify the move from a plural “millions” (plural) to the impressively singular “billion”. But that’s a hard-fought percentage bump, thanks largely to a glut of new blockbuster games that proved popular enough to offset lagging hardware sales.
Speaking of lagging hardware sales, new gaming hardware sales fell a distressing 12 percent from last year ($277 million from $316 million), though it’s not all bad news. Once again, Nintendo’s Switch was the best-selling console for the month – and 2019 overall – generating more revenue for the company since 2011. NPD reports the sell-through of the Nintendo-centric Super Smash Bros. Ultimate continues to drive sales of the hybrid console, and easily remaining the best-selling console exclusive of the year – and the only exclusive represented on the Top Ten software list.
The report is light on information about how either Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One sold at retail but considering that precipitous percentage drop we doubt the news is as rosy. That said, NPD still reports that total hardware sales in 2019 stand at $896 million, a nice 10 percent improvement over 2018’s tally at the same point.
Thankfully, we’ve got sales of new gaming accessories – which include headsets, controllers, game cards and more – to further offset new hardware losses, rising a respectable 6 percent over last year ($313 million over $295 million). The primary driving force behind this bump, once again, seems to be the one thing missing in context: huge momentum from “free” battle royale blockbusters like Fortnite and Apex Legends; the game’s might be free, but the trash-talking will cost you!
And this leaves us to the most encouraging news of the month: software sales, which includes both new console and PC sales (though sans digital sales, sadly). Consumers helped drive sales upwards of 15 percent over last year ($457 million over $397 million), leading to a healthy mix of holdovers and brand new adventures worth your time (and dollars).
EA’s maligned multiplayer shooter Anthem grabbed the top spot, proving once again that even the most influential gaming fans have far less influence than you’d think. In second place is Bandai Namco’s own crazy crossover fighter, Jump Force, providing more evidence that Dragon Ball remains as popular as its ever been. While it fell to third place, Square-Enix’s Kingdom Hearts III also remains popular – and is the best-selling game of 2019 thus far. Never discount the power of Disney and Pixar, even if understanding the story requires a PhD in comparative literature.
In fourth place is Ubisoft’s Far Cry New Dawn, the not-quite DLC and not-quite expansion to last year’s best-selling Far Cry 5. Deep Silver’s bleak Russian-set Metro: Exodus proved a hit, coming in eighth place, with its controversial Steam/Epic Games Store feud also proving anything associated with “Russia” can’t catch a break this year.
Top Twenty Software: Anthem Hearts You!
02. Jump Force
03. Kingdom Hearts III
04. Far Cry New Dawn
05. Red Dead Redemption II
06. Resident Evil 2 (2019)
07. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
08. Metro: Exodus
09. NBA 2K19
10. Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII
11. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
12. Mario Kart 8
13. Grand Theft Auto V
14. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
15. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
17. Super Mario Party
18. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege