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Digital video game sales hit $7.7 billion in April, easing from record high

Activision
David M. Benett | Getty Images

Digital video game sales pulled back slightly in April after striking a record high in the previous month, as seasonal factors set in and some high-flying titles got their wings clipped.

Global revenues from video games downloaded to PCs and consoles or played online totaled $7.7 billion last month, down from an all-time high of $8 billion in March, analysis by gaming intelligence firm SuperData shows. Despite the sequential slowdown, April's haul marked a 9 percent uptick from a year ago.

The figures did not reflect games bought in stores.

March is a historically strong period for digital games, so it's natural for revenues to tick down in April, SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen told CNBC.

Sales usually pick back up during the back-to-school period in August and September, but van Dreunen says this summer's figures may be particularly strong as developers look to build on the success of "Pokemon Go." The smash hit forced gamers to head outside to hunt down digital critters linked to real world locations.

"That really blew people away. You're going to start seeing more of that. People are going to try to copy that formula," he said.

Another trend to watch, according to van Dreunen are Chinese mobile developers looking to crack the U.S. market with their sophisticated mobile games that play more like PC titles. One such title is "Honor of Kings" from Chinese Internet and media giant Tencent, which was the seventh highest grossing mobile game in April.

The mobile segment posted 8 percent sales growth in April, helping to offset slight revenue declines in premium PC and pay-to-play online titles, console downloads and social media-based games.

Two of March's top performers — EA's "Mass Effect: Andromeda" and Ubisoft's "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands" — saw sharp revenue declines in April, perhaps due to poor reviews, according to SuperData.

"Mass Effect: Andromeda," the fourth installment in a sci-fi role-playing franchise with a hardcore cult following, fell out of the top 10 entirely last month.

"The loyalty among the audience in the game is very, very strong historically, and they just weren't able to capitalize on it," said van Dreunen.

One standout in the premium PC segment was Bluehole's "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds," a new massively multiplayer online game in which players parachute onto an island and try to defeat and outlast other gamers. It hauled in $34 million in April despite being in limited release.

Take-Two Interactive saw continued strength in its "Grand Theft Auto" franchise, offsetting news this week it would delay the sequel to its hit "Red Dead Redemption" until 2018. Revenue for "GTA V Online" jumped from last year, as players made in-game purchases on the "Tiny Racers" update, which mimics the franchise's 90s-era gameplay.