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Video game sales fall 21% in December, down 8% for full-year 2011

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 7:42PM EST

The video game industry capped off a rough year in the United States with a horrible holiday month that saw sales plummet year-over-year across all categories. Market research firm The NPD Group recently released its sales estimates for December 2011 and the full year, and neither set of figures paints a pretty picture. Last month, total industry sales plummeted to $3.99 billion, down 21% from $5.07 billion in December 2010. Hardware sales dropped 28% to $1.32 billion in December, and software sales were down 14% to $2.08 billion. “December was very rough for new physical sales of video games hardware, software and accessories,” NPD analyst Anita Frazier said in a statement. “Because of the great slate of content that came to market during the fourth quarter, I had expected December sales to represent a larger portion of total year sales than what occurred. This year, December accounted for just 23% of annual sales, while the average for the past ten years has been 28.” For the full year, hardware sales were down 11% to $5.58 billion, software sales dipped 6% to $8.83 billion and total industry sales slid 8% to $17.02 billion. The NPD Group’s full press release follows below along with a list of the top-10 best-selling games of 2011.

Image source: Kristen Lanae

Annual 2011 Top 10 Games (New Physical Retail only; across all platforms incl. PC) Rank Publisher
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (360, PS3, Wii, PC)** 1 Activision Blizzard
Just Dance 3 (Wii, 360, PS3) 2 Ubisoft
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (360, PS3, PC)** 3 Bethesda Softworks
Battlefield 3 (360, PS3, PC)** 4 Electronic Arts
Madden NFL 12 (360, PS3, Wii, PSP, PS2)** 5 Electronic Arts
Call of Duty: Black Ops (360, PS3, Wii, NDS, PC)** 6 Activision Blizzard
Batman: Arkham City (360, PS3, PC)** 7 Warner Bros. Interactive
Gears of War 3 (360)** 8 Microsoft
Just Dance 2 (Wii) 9 Ubisoft
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (360, PS3, PC) 10 Ubisoft



PORT WASHINGTON, NY, January 12, 2012 – According to leading market research company, The NPD Group, the preliminary estimate* for total consumer spend on gaming content via all monetization methods, including new physical video and PC games, used games, game rentals, subscriptions, digital full-game downloads, social network games, downloadable content, and mobile games, is between  $16.3 to $16.6 billion. This total consumer spend on games content in 2011, which includes both physical and digital formats, represents sales that are down approximately 2 percent when compared to 2010.

Based on this estimate, spending on new physical content at retail continues to account for the majority of the total consumer spend on games content.  U.S. retail sales of new physical video game content, which includes portable, console and PC game software, generated revenues of $9.3 billion, an 8 percent decline over the $10.1 billion generated in 2010.

Bright spots came from HD console software sales, which were up 9 percent in 2011, as well as increases in the consumer spend on used games sales, full-game digital downloads and downloadable content, and mobile gaming apps, which partially offset declines in the other areas of consumer spend on content.

“Overall industry results are not entirely surprising given that we are on the back end of the current console lifecycle, combined with the continued digital evolution of gaming.  Core gamers continue to be engaged and spend on established franchises across both the digital and physical format using multiple devices for different gaming occasions,” said Anita Frazier, industry analyst, The NPD Group.

“Our overall estimate of the market continues to point toward the increased imperative for deeper visibility into digital distribution than is available today, not only in the U.S. but globally.  This is the goal of our partnership with EEDAR, and central to our discussions with publishers and others in the gaming community,” said David McQuillan, president, Games at The NPD Group.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.