Are Video Game Sales Bouncing Back?

Are Video Game Sales Bouncing Back?

The NPD video games sales numbers are in for February. They’re chilling, shocking, depressing…

Oh, just kidding. They’re fine. The industry rebounded 3% after suffering a 5% slump in January. Really though, what branch of retail doesn’t suffer a slump in that magic month when the world opens its Christmas credit card bills and screams in one collective voice?

The strongest sellers in February were Call of Duty: Black Ops and Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. Accessory sales also experienced a 22% increase to $256.9 million thanks to sales of the Kinect. What do these numbers indicate? That people love commanding Ryu to beat up on Spider-Man, but that’s obvious. Does the rebound in February sales indicate that the console-based games industry is bouncing back after being buffeted around in the economic slump of 2008?

The 2008 downturn dealt a heavy blow to leisure budgets in general, and when looking at the bigger picture, it’s clear that video games did okay. Between the Wii’s record sales, the rise of the casual game market, and families opting to buy Rock Band sets in lieu of taking family vacations, video games managed to cling to solid ground, even though the industry did not escape unscathed. That said, any kind of downturn is undesirable, especially in an industry where development costs are skyrocketing. Do the latest NPD numbers prophetize that happy days are here again?

It’s still too early to say for sure. The worst of the economic crisis may be over, but people still need to catch their breath, meaning video game purchases aren’t always their first priority.

Recent Nielsen numbers indicate that families are spreading their leisure budget to cover cellphone-related entertainment as well as video games. However, that spike in cellphone spending isn’t indicative of trouble for the games industry, as Nielsen’s numbers covered general cellphone purchases, including music and work-related apps.

But when the cellphone numbers are stacked up against some of the other types of spending that Americans indulged in through 2010, we see an interesting story. People spent more money overall on dining out, cellphones, and shopping. People have stuck by games pretty solidly through 2008 and 2009; now that they have more spending cash, they want to go out for dinner and buy themselves the nice clothes and accessories they couldn’t afford when the chips were down.

Video games haven’t been abandoned by families, however, and we should see numbers stabilize and rise, especially with the introduction of the Nintendo 3DS. After all, the joy of slicing open Guile’s head with Wolverine’s claws is a one-of-a-kind experience that can’t be replaced by a nice dinner.

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About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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