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2009’s Top Selling Video Games

2009’s Top Selling Video Games
We’re nearly at the halfway point of 2009, so it seems a good time to take a look at what’s driving sales in the video game industry.On the whole, this year hasn’t been overly kind so far. Software sales are down 6 percent compared to this point in 2008 – a $200 million shortfall. And while there have been a few solid hits, several of the year’s best selling games are over a year old. It’s important to note that the first half of last year had some blockbusters, though, including “Grand Theft Au
Photo: Drumecho

We’re nearly at the halfway point of 2009, so it seems a good time to take a look at what’s driving sales in the video game industry.

On the whole, this year hasn’t been overly kind so far. Software sales are down 6 percent compared to this point in 2008 – a $200 million shortfall. And while there have been a few solid hits, several of the year’s best selling games are over a year old.

It’s important to note that the first half of last year had some blockbusters, though, including “Grand Theft Auto IV” and “Mario Kart”. That tends to warp comparisons.

Year to date, the industry’s five top games have sold nearly 7 million copies cumulatively, according to NPD Group, which tracks sales in the video game industry. (Sales data for numbers six through ten was not available.) Nintendo, not surprisingly, continues to rule the charts, claiming four of the top five slots.

A look at the Top 10, year to date, follows – starting with a handful of recently launched and imminent titles that are showing strong initial sales or pre-orders – and could achieve a spot on the Top 10 list moving forward.

By Chris Morris, Special to CNBC.com
Posted 27 May 2009

10. Street Fighter IV
Publisher: CapcomReleased February 2009“Street Fighter” was one of the arcade standards when it came to fighting games – and this new installment doesn’t forget its roots. With unlockable characters, devastating blows and a sense of renewal for the series, the game appeals to long time fans, which returned in droves.
Photo Courtesy: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom
Released February 2009

“Street Fighter” was one of the arcade standards when it came to fighting games – and this new installment doesn’t forget its roots. With unlockable characters, devastating blows and a sense of renewal for the series, the game appeals to long time fans, which returned in droves.

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9. Halo Wars
Publisher: Microsoft (MSFT)Released March 2009While you might expect to see a “Halo” game higher in the list, it’s worth noting that this installment in the franchise was a different beast than the ongoing saga of the Master Chief. The game was a real-time strategy title rather than a first person shooter, which is a much harder sell to console gamers. Odds are this won’t be the “Halo” title we see in the Top 10 by the end of the year. “Halo 3: ODST,” due later this year, returns the series to i
Photo Courtesy: Microsoft

Publisher: Microsoft (MSFT)
Released March 2009

While you might expect to see a “Halo” game higher in the list, it’s worth noting that this installment in the franchise was a different beast than the ongoing saga of the Master Chief. The game was a real-time strategy title rather than a first person shooter, which is a much harder sell to console gamers.

Odds are this won’t be the “Halo” title we see in the Top 10 by the end of the year. “Halo 3: ODST,” due later this year, returns the series to its shooter roots – and carries the prestige of being developed by series creator Bungie.

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8. Resident Evil 5 (PlayStation 3)
Publisher: CapcomReleased March 2009Like the Xbox 360 version, the PS3 version of “Resident Evil 5” is a graphical masterpiece. The game may be identical on both platforms, but fans of both systems like to argue which version is graphically superior. Don’t read anything into the Xbox 360 selling more copies, though. If the PS3 were in more homes, the positions would be reversed.
Photo Courtesy: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom
Released March 2009

Like the Xbox 360 version, the PS3 version of “Resident Evil 5” is a graphical masterpiece. The game may be identical on both platforms, but fans of both systems like to argue which version is graphically superior. Don’t read anything into the Xbox 360 selling more copies, though. If the PS3 were in more homes, the positions would be reversed.

7. Call of Duty: World at War
Publisher: Activision (ATVI)Released November 2008“World at War” was the second-best selling game of 2008, so it’s no surprise it continues to do well in 2009. Activision (and developer Treyarch) brought the vaunted series back to its World War II roots after the previous installment (which was set in the modern age) – and gamers snapped it up.The company has actively supported the game since its release as well, releasing downloadable content that quickly set a new record on Xbox Live, with ove
Photo Courtesy: Activision

Publisher: Activision (ATVI)
Released November 2008

“World at War” was the second-best selling game of 2008, so it’s no surprise it continues to do well in 2009. Activision (and developer Treyarch) brought the vaunted series back to its World War II roots after the previous installment (which was set in the modern age) – and gamers snapped it up.

The company has actively supported the game since its release as well, releasing downloadable content that quickly set a new record on Xbox Live, with over 1 million people buying the new maps within the first week.

6. Killzone 2
Publisher: Sony (SNE)Released February 2009Long before the PlayStation 3 made it on to store shelves, gamers wanted to get their hands on “Killzone 2”. The initial trailer for the game was graphically so far beyond anything anyone had ever seen on a video game system that they wanted to see if such authenticity was possible. It took longer than expected, but it turns out the answer was “pretty much.” “Killzone 2” is an astonishing looking game that keeps the action coming. It has become one of t
Photo Courtesy: Sony

Publisher: Sony (SNE)
Released February 2009

Long before the PlayStation 3 made it on to store shelves, gamers wanted to get their hands on “Killzone 2”. The initial trailer for the game was graphically so far beyond anything anyone had ever seen on a video game system that they wanted to see if such authenticity was possible.

It took longer than expected, but it turns out the answer was “pretty much.” “Killzone 2” is an astonishing looking game that keeps the action coming. It has become one of the must-have games for the PS3 and may well jump into the Top 5 before the end of the year.

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5. Resident Evil 5 (Xbox 360)
Publisher: CapcomReleased March 2009Units sold: 966,000The “Resident Evil” franchise saw a revival with “Resident Evil 4” in 2005 and has only grown stronger since then. Moody and violent, it’s not without its share of controversy, as accusations of a racist tone in the game preceded its release. Those accusations continue to be debated, but have generally been overshadowed by the quality of the game itself. The Xbox 360 version of this game has proven more popular than the PlayStation 3 version
Photo Courtesy: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom
Released March 2009
Units sold: 966,000

The “Resident Evil” franchise saw a revival with “Resident Evil 4” in 2005 and has only grown stronger since then. Moody and violent, it’s not without its share of controversy, as accusations of a racist tone in the game preceded its release. Those accusations continue to be debated, but have generally been overshadowed by the quality of the game itself.

The Xbox 360 version of this game has proven more popular than the PlayStation 3 version, but that’s chiefly due to larger hardware sales numbers for the 360. Both versions of the game are graphical tours de force.

4. Mario Kart Wii
Publisher: NintendoReleased April 2008Units sold: 1,045,000Like “Pokemon,” the Mario Kart series has been a long-running success for Nintendo. The company smartly included a driving wheel peripheral in its packaging as well, which made the game even more appealing to its new audience.“Mario Kart Wii” is charming, colorful and easy to pick up. And being able to play against friends online is an added bonus. There’s a reason this was the best selling game of 2008 – and why it continues to rank hig
Photo Courtesy: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo
Released April 2008
Units sold: 1,045,000

Like “Pokemon,” the Mario Kart series has been a long-running success for Nintendo. The company smartly included a driving wheel peripheral in its packaging as well, which made the game even more appealing to its new audience.

“Mario Kart Wii” is charming, colorful and easy to pick up. And being able to play against friends online is an added bonus. There’s a reason this was the best selling game of 2008 – and why it continues to rank high in 2009.

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3. Pokemon Platinum Version
Publisher: NintendoReleased March 2009Units sold: 1,237,000After 14 years, the juggernaut franchise is showing no signs of slowing down. Exclusive to the Nintendo DS, this title is actually an upgrade of the previously released “Pokemon Diamond and Pearl”. The tweaks were of sufficient quality that it didn’t scare away buyers, though.The chief appeal of the game was its upgrade of online play. In addition to battling friends and strangers via Wi-Fi, “Platinum” owners can interact with up to 20 o
Photo Courtesy: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo
Released March 2009
Units sold: 1,237,000

After 14 years, the juggernaut franchise is showing no signs of slowing down. Exclusive to the Nintendo DS, this title is actually an upgrade of the previously released “Pokemon Diamond and Pearl”. The tweaks were of sufficient quality that it didn’t scare away buyers, though.

The chief appeal of the game was its upgrade of online play. In addition to battling friends and strangers via Wi-Fi, “Platinum” owners can interact with up to 20 other players to play mini-games and mingle in a Pokemon-exclusive chat room.

2. Wii Play (w/ Remote)
Publisher: NintendoReleased February 2007Units sold: 1,252,000Like “Wii Sports” before it, “Wii Play” is laser focused at luring non- and lapsed-gamers to the Wii. The game is actually a collection of nine stand-alone games (including table tennis, fishing and hunting) that demonstrate the unique playing style of the Wii’s controller.The idea is simple: Help new players further train themselves how to play with the Wii. Particularly appealing for consumers is the extra remote that comes with the
Photo Courtesy: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo
Released February 2007
Units sold: 1,252,000

Like “Wii Sports” before it, “Wii Play” is laser focused at luring non- and lapsed-gamers to the Wii. The game is actually a collection of nine stand-alone games (including table tennis, fishing and hunting) that demonstrate the unique playing style of the Wii’s controller.

The idea is simple: Help new players further train themselves how to play with the Wii. Particularly appealing for consumers is the extra remote that comes with the game. The game/controller combo costs virtually the same as a stand-alone controller. It’s not a hard choice, which has kept sales of the game high, even after two years on the market.

1. Wii Fit (w/ Balance Board)
Publisher: NintendoReleased May 2008Units sold: 2,434,000There was a lot of skepticism when Nintendo first showed “Wii Fit” two years ago. Those critics were quickly silenced when the fitness and balance game quickly became almost as popular as the Wii console itself. Finding a copy of the game last November and December was nearly impossible – and demand hasn’t let up yet. The success of “Wii Fit” has opened the doors for other companies as well. Some, such as Electronic Arts, are releasing the
Photo Courtesy: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo
Released May 2008
Units sold: 2,434,000

There was a lot of skepticism when Nintendo first showed “Wii Fit” two years ago. Those critics were quickly silenced when the fitness and balance game quickly became almost as popular as the Wii console itself. Finding a copy of the game last November and December was nearly impossible – and demand hasn’t let up yet.

The success of “Wii Fit” has opened the doors for other companies as well. Some, such as Electronic Arts, are releasing their own fitness games. Others, such as Ubisoft (UBSFF), have utilized the game’s balance board controller into other titles, such as “Shaun White Snowboarding.”

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2009 Game To Watch
Publisher: THQ (THQI)Release date: May 19, 2009Pre-orders for this mixed martial arts title were stronger than expected and analysts predict it could sell up to 3 million copies before the year is through. That’s impressive – especially for the first title in a new franchise. Publisher THQ has been struggling for the past year or so and has lost a lot of ground in the industry. The success of “UFC Undisputed” could be the first step in its rehabilitation.
Photo Courtesy: THQ

UFC Undisputed
Publisher: THQ (THQI)
Release date: May 19, 2009

Pre-orders for this mixed martial arts title were stronger than expected and analysts predict it could sell up to 3 million copies before the year is through. That’s impressive – especially for the first title in a new franchise.

Publisher THQ has been struggling for the past year or so and has lost a lot of ground in the industry. The success of “UFC Undisputed” could be the first step in its rehabilitation.

2009 Game To Watch
Publisher: NintendoRelease date: June 8, 2009Much like “Wii Play” and “Wii Sports,” “Wii Sports Resort” will be a series of mini-games that appeal to the casual gamer. The catch, though, is the title will introduce a new Wii peripheral called MotionPlus. This add-on will make the Wii’s controller much more precise, allowing for more accurate control of onscreen action.Other publishers are already creating games with the MotionPlus peripheral in mind, so it’s likely to soon become a must-have for
Photo Courtesy: Nintendo

Wii Sports Resort
Publisher: Nintendo
Release date: June 8, 2009

Much like “Wii Play” and “Wii Sports,” “Wii Sports Resort” will be a series of mini-games that appeal to the casual gamer. The catch, though, is the title will introduce a new Wii peripheral called MotionPlus. This add-on will make the Wii’s controller much more precise, allowing for more accurate control of onscreen action.

Other publishers are already creating games with the MotionPlus peripheral in mind, so it’s likely to soon become a must-have for Wii owners. Nintendo’s just bundling it with a game that history has shown the audience enjoys.

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2009 Game To Watch
Publisher: Electronic ArtsRelease date: June 8, 2009While the Tiger Woods franchise is always a strong seller, it doesn’t often make the Top 10 sales list. This year, though, EA built the Wii version of the game around the new MotionPlus peripheral, meaning living roof duffers will be better able to control their swings.Like “Wii Sports Resort,” the game will come bundled with the MotionPlus, which should further help drive sales.
Photo Courtesy: Electronic Arts

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10
Publisher: Electronic Arts (ERTS)
Release date: June 8, 2009

While the Tiger Woods franchise is always a strong seller, it doesn’t often make the Top 10 sales list. This year, though, EA built the Wii version of the game around the new MotionPlus peripheral, meaning living room duffers will be better able to control their swings.

Like “Wii Sports Resort,” the game will come bundled with the MotionPlus, which should further help drive sales.

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2009 Game To Watch
Publisher: Electronic Arts (ERTS)Release date: May 19, 2009Following the path of “Wii Fit,” Electronic Arts gets into the fitness game category with “EA Sports Active”. While it does utilize the balance board for people who own both games, that’s not a requirement. Instead, the title allows people to try resistance training and other forms of exercise. Analysts expect “Active” to sell over 1 million copies this year. And EA is already at work on more fitness games.
Photo Courtesy: Electronic Arts

EA Sports Active
Publisher: Electronic Arts (ERTS)
Release date: May 19, 2009

Following the path of “Wii Fit,” Electronic Arts gets into the fitness game category with “EA Sports Active”. While it does utilize the balance board for people who own both games, that’s not a requirement. Instead, the title allows people to try resistance training and other forms of exercise.

Analysts expect “Active” to sell over 1 million copies this year. And EA is already at work on more fitness games.