Between the summer doldrums and the busy holiday season lay the intermediary month of September, a hybrid period when hot summer nights give way to the cooler breezes of Fall. Which is appropriate, as the gaming industry itself experiences such a change as it readies itself for the selling frenzy of what’s to come. To help make sense of this transitional madness our trusty number-crunchers Cory Galliher and Nate Evans are back, microphones and opinions at the ready, to discuss the estimates from The NPD Group’s monthly snapshot of the gaming industry’s physical and digital retail health for September 2019.
So how did things fare? Let’s just say…things could’ve been better.
Total sales of new gaming hardware and software for September 2019 fell 8 percent from last year ($1.278 billion from $1.396 billion), which is still well over the magical “b for billion” mark but slightly less so. Cumulative sales for 2019 have reached $1.278 billion, which is 6 percent lower than 2018’s tally at the same time. There are real, concrete reasons for the decline which we’ll get into right now.
Sales of new gaming hardware fell the steepest, dropping a hard 22 percent from last year ($240 million from $307 million). The major cause for this decline continues to be decreased viability in legacy gaming hardware like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One console platforms. Nintendo’s Switch, a lineup that now includes both the OG Switch and newer, mobile-only Switch Lite, continues to dominate the hardware charts and remains both September’s and the year’s best-selling hardware platform.
Nintendo also announced that 15 million Switch units have been sold across North America alone, an impressive milestone that dwarfs the total number the hybrid’s predecessor, the Wii U, managed in its entire life cycle.
With Sony just making the PlayStation 5 official and Microsoft readying their “Project Scarlett” (actual name TBD) the next-generation console wars are only just beginning, to say nothing of new challengers like Apple Arcade, Google Stadia and whatever else might be out there.
Sales of new gaming accessories, which includes controllers, game cards and more also experienced the sting of loss, falling a slight 7 percent from last year ($308 million from $328 million). The likely suspect for this once-reliable sector must surely be market saturation and slowed momentum for “free” online shooters like Fortnite and its countless imitators. As we’ve learned time and time again, “free” will only get you so far.
While sales of new gaming software also felt the hurt, falling 4 percent from last year ($732 million from $761 million), it’s the smallest drop of the bunch and the most interesting glimpse at what gamers were rallying for – especially for athletes and new releases.
Sports games ruled the roost in September as four entirely different digital events scored spots on the Top Ten chart. 2K Games’ annual basketball blockbuster NBA 2K20 debuted at number one while EA Sports’ notched FIFA 20 at third, Madden NFL 20 at fifth and NHL 20 coming in at ninth.
2K Games had more reason to celebrate as their eagerly anticipated Borderlands 3 not only debuted in second place, but overall sales for the cell-shaded shooter have already made it the third best-selling game of 2019 (so far). Nintendo’s new remix of the Game Boy classic The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening debuted high at fourth while sales of Bandai Namco’s Code Vein were enough to land it in eighth. Less impressive was Microsoft’s Gears 5, a major success for their Game Pass service but less impressive in its retail debut.
Top Twenty Software: Nothing But Net
01. NBA 2K20
02. Borderlands 3
03. FIFA 20
04. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
05. Madden NFL 20
06. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint
07. Gears 5
08. Code Vein
09. NHL 20
10. Mario Kart 8
12. Grand Theft Auto V
13. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
14. Spyro Reignited Trilogy
15. Red Dead Redemption II
16. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege
17. Plants vs Zombies: Battle For Neighborville
18. Marvel’s Spider-Man
20. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild