L.A. Noire was a bright spot. - Rockstar Games After riding high from the thrill of E3 last week, the video game industry got a harsh slap in the face Monday.
As reported by the NPD Group, sales of video games in the month of May were down 19 percent compared to a year ago -- the worst performance for the industry in nearly five years.
You have to look back as far as October 2006 to find a dive this steep. And, making matters worse, none of the industry's fortunetellers saw it coming. Analysts had expected May to be relatively flat thanks to a Wii price cut early in the month.
Game software sales came in at $375.8 million, $90 million less than May 2010. Year to date, the industry is a worrying 14 percent off of 2010's retail sales pace.
"This month's story really is about a light new release schedule as compared to last year," said NPD analyst Anita Frazier.
There's some truth in that. Last year saw eventual Game of the Year winner Red Dead Redemption hit stores, along with Microsoft's Alan Wake and several other big budget releases. This May offered us a different Rockstar Games release in L.A. Noire, the month's top selling game, and Brink, a shooter that didn't score well with critics but managed to capture the #2 spot.
On the hardware front, it wasn't a happy story for Nintendo, which saw sales drops across all of its systems, a fact that particularly underscores the weakness of the Wii these days, given the price cut. The 3DS, the company's best hope for righting the ship this year, saw continued weakness, but that might reverse itself within the next week with the release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.
Sony saw some minor sales increases with the PS3 hardware, though, and Microsoft actually has something to celebrate as the Xbox 360 has consistently had month-over-month sales increases for nearly a year and a half now.
"Overall, the Xbox 360 platform has contributed 34 percent of year-to-date revenues (across hardware, content and accessories) generated by new physical retail sales, gaining 7 share points over last year," said Frazier.
Here are the month's top 10 games.
1. L.A. Noire | Take 2 Interactive
2. Brink | Bethesda Softworks
3. Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game | Disney Interactive Studios
4. Portal 2 | Electronic Arts
5. Mortal Kombat 2011 | Warner Bros. Interactive
6. Call of Duty: Black Ops | Activision Blizzard
7. Zumba Fitness: Join the Party | Majesco
8. NBA 2K11 | Take 2 Interactive
9. Just Dance 2 | Ubisoft
10. Lego Star Ware III: The Clone Wars | Lucasarts