Activision, to little surprise, lays claim to the year’s best-selling title with “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2”. The game sold 6.1 million copies last month in the U.S. alone and retail channel checks show it is continuing to move briskly in December. Analysts say it is a certainty the game will top sales of $1 billion, putting it in the same league as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album and the movie “Titanic”.
Electronic Arts and Microsoft occupy the two remaining spots in the Top 10 with “Madden NFL 10” and “Halo 3: ODST” respectively.
The list could see some shifting before the year ends, but it’s unlikely any of the games will fall off when the final 2009 rankings are announced. Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed II” had a strong launch in November, selling over 1.3 million copies, but because NPD identifies game sales by system — and that title’s numbers were split between the Xbox 360 and Sony PS3 — it will likely fall short of the year end list.
Ubisoft had high hopes for its game adaptation of “James Cameron’s Avatar,” but retailers indicate that initial sales of the game have been soft. One GameStop manager in a high-traffic area reported he didn’t sell a single copy in the game’s first three days on shelves.
A big box office bow for the film could help — but probably won’t be enough to make the game one of the year’s best sellers.
While the music genre has suffered notably this year compared to the 2008 numbers, things aren’t as dire as they might seem, notes NPD analyst Anita Frazier. The “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” franchises are the fourth and fifth most successful video game properties year to date in a separate NPD ranking. (“Guitar Hero,” it’s worth noting, released six different titles this year.)
“Call of Duty,” “Wii Fit” and “Mario Bros” top the best selling properties list (which includes PC sales where applicable).
The video game industry typically makes its money off of software sales. Hardware is often sold at a loss to ensure a sizable installed base of customers is available to buy the software.
Nintendo, though, is a bit of an exception to this rule. The company refuses to take a loss on its game machines, making its sales successes even more noteworthy. The company, through the end of November has sold 5.8 million Wiis — vastly outselling Microsoft and Sony. That’s 2.2 million behind the 2008 pace, though.
On the portable side, however, things are brighter. The company has sold 7.9 million DS systems —a 1 million-unit boost over last year’s numbers.
Whether it will maintain that lead is a bit less clear, as the company faces very tough hardware comparable sales numbers from last December.