Tech Check

The Best Selling Video Games of 2011

2011's Best Selling Games...So Far

CNBC_best_selling_video_games_2011_cover.jpg
September typically marks the beginning of the holiday season for the videogame industry. From this point through late November, publishers will release at least one potential blockbuster per week. Holiday sales make up roughly 40 percent of the overall industry revenue--and the year's biggest hits are born then. But as publishers prepare for the fourth-quarter battle, what better time to see what has been driving sales so far this year? So far things aren't shaping up well. Software sales are d
Photo: Activision

September typically marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season for the videogame industry. From this point through late November, publishers will release at least one potential blockbuster each week.

Holiday sales make up roughly 40 percent of the overall industry revenue—and the year's biggest hits are born then. But as publishers prepare for the fourth-quarter battle, what better time to see what has been driving sales this year?

So far, things aren't shaping up well. Software sales are down 11 percent year to date, and are on track to be lower for the third consecutive year, according to the NPD Group, which tracks game sales. That's a shortfall of more than $450 million.

Here's a look at the top 10 videogames through the end of August, based on U.S. sales (though when the year's over, expect several to be displaced).

By Chris Morris, Special to CNBC.com
Posted 21 September 2011

10. Portal 2

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Publisher: Valve Software Released: April 19, 2011 This much-anticipated puzzle/action game challenges players to find their way out of rooms using a teleporter gun and their wits—while they're insulted by an evil overseeing computer. It might sound odd, but it's one of the highest rated games of the year.
Photo: Valve Software

Publisher: Valve Software
Released: April 19, 2011

This much-anticipated puzzle/action game challenges players to find their way out of rooms using a teleporter gun and their wits—while they're insulted by an evil overseeing computer. It might sound odd, but it's one of the highest-rated games of the year.

9. Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars

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Publisher: LucasArts Released: March 22, 2011 The Lego Star Wars games are regular hits, due to the game's quirky, endearing gameplay and the strength of the franchise. This installment featured missions and characters from the Clone Wars TV series along with characters from the original films—as well as an upgraded graphics engine.
Photo: LucasArts

Publisher: LucasArts
Released: March 22, 2011

The Lego Star Wars games are regular hits, due to the game's quirky, endearing gameplay and the strength of the franchise. This installment featured missions and characters from the Clone Wars TV series, along with characters from the original films—as well as an upgraded graphics engine.

8. L.A. Noire

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Publisher: Take-Two Interactive Software Released: May 17, 2011 What made this 1940s-period crime drama noteworthy wasn't really the story, or even the fact that the company that made "Grand Theft Auto" had focused on cops instead of robbers. What sets this game apart is the enormous advances in motion capture, which showed nuanced facial expressions, letting you decide if a character was lying when you asked a question.
Photo: Take-Two Interactive Software

Publisher: Take-Two Interactive Software
Released: May 17, 2011

What made this 1940s-period crime drama noteworthy wasn't really the story, or even the fact that the company that made "Grand Theft Auto" had focused on cops instead of robbers. What sets this game apart is the enormous advances in motion capture, which showed nuanced facial expressions, letting you decide if a character was lying when you asked a question.

7. Zumba Fitness: Join the Party

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Publisher: Majesco Released: Nov. 18, 2010 Majesco has been stuck in gaming purgatory for the better part of the past decade, but the Zumba exercise craze pushed it back into the limelight. Fitness enthusiasts have flocked to this dance fitness game—and a sequel is on the way in late 2011.
Photo: Majesco

Publisher: Majesco
Released: Nov. 18, 2010

Majesco has been stuck in gaming purgatory for the better part of the past decade, but the Zumba exercise craze pushed it back into the limelight. Fitness enthusiasts have flocked to this dance fitness game—and a sequel is on the way in late 2011.

6. Mortal Kombat 2011

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Publisher: Warner Bros. Released: April 19, 2011 When Warner Bros. bought the rights to this nearly 20-year-old game franchise, the game maker vowed to take it back to its roots and still make it accessible for beginners. The strategy worked, though it wasn't without controversy. Australia banned the game for its extreme violence.
Photo: Warner Bros.

Publisher: Warner Bros.
Released: April 19, 2011

When Warner Bros. bought the rights to this nearly 20-year-old game franchise, the game maker vowed to take it back to its roots and still make it accessible for beginners. The strategy worked, though it wasn't without controversy. Australia banned the game for its extreme violence.

5. Pokemon Black Version

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Publisher: NintendoReleased: March 6, 2011Despite the decline in Nintendo DS sales, Pokemon titles still rule the charts. This version, released simultaneously with Pokemon White, introduces new Pokemon and was the first installment in the series' fifth generation.
Photo: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo
Released: March 6, 2011

Despite the decline in Nintendo DS sales, Pokemon titles still rule the charts. This version, released simultaneously with Pokemon White, introduces new Pokemon and was the first installment in the series' fifth generation.

4. NBA 2K11

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Publisher: Take-Two Interactive Software Released: Oct. 5, 2010 Take-Two's National Basketball Association franchise has been growing steadily in recent years. But the addition of NBA legend Michael Jordan to the game (and on its cover) helped catapult the game into the top 5. Since its release, the game has sold 5.5 million units worldwide, according to Take-Two.
Photo: Take-Two Interactive Software

Publisher: Take-Two Interactive Software
Released: Oct. 5, 2010

Take-Two's National Basketball Association franchise has been growing steadily in recent years. But the addition of NBA legend Michael Jordan to the game (and on its cover) helped catapult the game into the top 5. Since its release, the game has sold 5.5 million units worldwide, according to Take-Two.

3. Pokemon White Version

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Publisher: Nintendo Released: March 6, 2011 Like the Black version, this installment in the 15-year-old franchise was highly rated. It's essentially the same game as Pokemon Black, but features different Pokemon.
Photo: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo
Released: March 6, 2011

Like the Black version, this installment in the 15-year-old franchise was highly rated. It's essentially the same game as Pokemon Black, but features different Pokemon.

2. Just Dance 2

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Publisher: Ubisoft Released: Oct. 12, 2010 With the possible exception of "Assassin's Creed," this is perhaps the most valuable game in Ubisoft's lineup these days. A Wii exclusive, it has managed to outsell other dance games by combining exercise and entertainment. A third version is due later this year.
Photo: Ubisoft

Publisher: Ubisoft
Released: Oct. 12, 2010

With the possible exception of "Assassin's Creed," this is perhaps the most valuable game in Ubisoft's lineup these days. A Wii exclusive, it has managed to outsell other dance games by combining exercise and entertainment. A third version is due later this year.

1. Call of Duty: Black Ops

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Publisher: Activision-Blizzard Released: Nov. 9, 2010 Last year's smash hit sold 7 million copies in its first 24 hours and hasn't slowed much since the start of the new year. It's the best-selling game of all time in the U.S.--and even more impressive: Pre-orders for this year's follow-up are indicating that title ("Modern Warfare 3") will be even bigger.
Photo: Activision-Blizzard

Publisher: Activision-Blizzard
Released: Nov. 9, 2010

Last year's smash hit sold 7 million copies in its first 24 hours and hasn't slowed much since the start of the new year. It's the best-selling game of all time in the U.S., and even more impressive: Pre-orders for this year's follow-up are indicating that title—"Modern Warfare 3"—will be even bigger.