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Digital video game sales growth cools off in September, rising 5% to $6.2 billion

Video games on PC
Ricardo DeAratanha | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

The pace of video game sales growth slowed in September after four straight months of double-digit increases, as the console market saw a steep drop from last year.

Worldwide revenues from digital games — those downloaded directly to devices — rose 5 percent year-over-year in the month to a total of $6.2 billion, gaming intelligence firm SuperData Research reported Thursday.

Gamers spent 14 percent less on downloads to consoles like Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox in September. The platform drummed up $493 million versus $572.8 million in September 2015.

Nevertheless, the top console game publishers are continuing to bolster profits by rolling out new content for previously released titles. In September, Activision Blizzard increased digital revenues for its first-person shooter "Destiny" eight times over to $59.1 million with a new expansion pack, SuperData reported.

The console market "is already a competitive battleground for major AAA publishers, but the growing number of legacy franchises with large bundles of additional content released between sequels will make the platform even more competitive and inhospitable for newcomers," the firm said.

Sales of digital PC titles also contracted, falling 6 percent to $334.8 million.

The mobile platform fueled September's growth as Niantic's "Pokemon Go" remained perched atop the charts. Sales from the hit game helped push mobile video game revenues to $3 billion. That marked an 11 percent jump from the same month last year.

Emerging trends held steady in the market for massively multiplayer online games — a popular type of game that unites legions of gamers in the same virtual world.

Subscription-based MMOs, which have experienced a sales decline in recent years, saw a recent uptick carry over into September. Revenues jumped 12 percent annually as the latest iteration of Activision's "World of Warcraft" bolstered the genre. Last month, SuperData reported that the successful transition of Chinese gamers to the pay-to-play model was underscoring the turnaround.

Meanwhile, titles in the powerhouse free-to-play MMO segment saw more measured gains of 6 percent to $1.5 billion as saturation perhaps sets in.

Gamers tune in to watch free-to-play MMOs in staggering numbers, but SuperData said generating money from those viewers remains an issue. The firm called out Amazon.com's Twitch streaming service for launching a number initiatives in the last year, such as tying Twitch subscriptions to its core Amazon Prime service.

Amazon Game Studios is also aiming to allow Twitch audience members to place bets on games.

"If Twitch can navigate the tricky legal regulations surrounding virtual betting, they not only will be able to increase the excitement of live-events but may also open a new channel for monetizing eSports," SuperData said.

Here are the top-selling digital games for September 2016 by platform, as measured by SuperData Research (figures in millions):

PC

1. "League of Legends"

2. "World of Warcraft"

3. "Crossfire"

4. "Dungeon Fighter Online"

5. "Overwatch"

6. "World of Tanks

7. "DOTA 2"

8. "Fantasy Westward Journey Online II"

9. "Maplestory"

10. "Lineage I"


Mobile

1. "Pokemon GO"

2. "Monster Strike"

3. "Clash Royale"

4. "Mobile Strike"

5. "Game of War: Fire Age"

6. "Clash of Clans"

7. "Fantasy Westward Journey"

8. "Puzzle & Dragons"

9. "Candy Crush Saga"

10. "Clash of Kings"

Console

1. "Destiny"

2. "FIFA 17"

3. "Call of Duty: Black Ops III"

4. "Grand Theft Auto V"

5. "NBA 2K17"

6. "FIFA 16"

7. "Star Wars Battlefront"

8. "Madden NFL 17"

9. "Forza Horizon 3"

10. "Overwatch"