Call of Duty And Other Hits Drive 2012 Sales, Mid-Tier Games Suffer

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The Xbox 360 was the best-selling console in December, selling over 1.4 million units during the month in the U.S., reports Microsoft’s Aaron Greenberg.


Despite the Xbox 360’s strong performance, however, hardware sales in December were down 20%, and down 27% for the entire year, as compared to 2011, according to the NPD Group’s monthly report.


On the software front, sales were down in December by 26% and year-round by 23% at retail, owing to a lack of new releases. The NPD Group report that there were 29% less SKUs across consoles, portables, and PCs in 2012, and that sales were driven primarily by hits like Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which is also the best-selling game of 2012. In fact, while Black Ops 2 was the #1 seller, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 took the #8 spot.


“In December 2012, positive trending for many annualized franchises like Call of Duty, Skylanders, Assassin’s Creed, and FIFA, points to consumers’ increased spending on hits, but that middle-tier games as well as catalog titles are suffering,” the NPD Group report.


The top ten best-selling games in December were as follows:


Rank Title System Publisher
01. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 360, PS3, Wii U, PC Activision Blizzard
02. Just Dance 4 Wii, 360, Wii U, PS3 Ubisoft
03. Halo 4 360 Microsoft
04. Assassin’s Creed III 360, PS3, PC, Wii U Ubisoft
05. Madden NFL 13 360, PS3, Wii, PSV, Wii U Electronic Arts
06. Far Cry 3 360, PS3, PC Ubisoft
07. NBA 2K13 360, PS3, Wii, Wii U, PSP, PC Take 2
08. Skylanders Giants Wii, 360, PS3, 3DS, Wii U Activision Blizzard
09. New Super Mario Bros. 2 3DS Nintendo
10. FIFA Soccer 13 360, PS3, Wii, PSV, Wii U, 3DS, PSP Electronic Arts


Meanwhile, December’s total industry sales fell by 22%, and so did industry sales throughout the entirety of 2012.


Point cards for download services are doing well, however, the NPD Group report. This is a sign of the increasing significance of digital sales. “This marked the best December ever for point and subscription card sales on a unit and dollar basis,” their analysis reads.


“2012 was also the best year for point card and subscription card sales as gamers sought digital content on Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and Nintendo’s eShop. Games like Journey and Minecraft broke records for number of games downloaded.”

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Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.