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‘Diablo III’ rules May sales charts in another down month for video games

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Diablo III (Activision-Blizzard)

For Activision-Blizzard, hell on earth meant a cash bonanza in May. For every other video game publisher, it was just hell.

The PC/Mac blockbuster Diablo III was the month's top selling video game — even without taking in the title's (presumably substantial) digital sales. But demand for the long-in-development action role-playing game couldn't prop up the industry's sales charts.

Retail sales of console video gamers were down 32 percent last month, with total software sales (including PC titles at retail) off 16 percent. Overall, the industry saw its May income decline from $718.9 million last year to to $516.5 million, a 28 percent drop.

Max Payne 3, Rockstar Games' revival of the seminal action series, was the top-selling game among consoles, followed by Ubisoft's Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and Activision's Prototype 2.

This was the first time since July 2010 that a PC title recorded retail sales that were strong enough to top console titles. That game, not surprisingly, was another long-awaited Blizzard title: Starcraft II.

NPD's video game analyst Anita Frazier noted that the retail sales numbers only account for between 50 and 60 percent of the total amount consumers spend on games today. While brick and mortar stores sold just $516.5 million in game hardware and software, NPD preliminarily estimates digital sales will push that number to $1.17 billion.

In addition, 2012 has thus far seen notably fewer new games than 2011. NPD says it hopes to see a burst of sales when the big new crop of anticipated games comes this fall.

"YTD 2012, there have been 27 percent fewer new software title introductions into retail, which we believe is a big part of the softness we're seeing in May sales," said Frazier. "A title obviously continues to see sales beyond its launch month, so there is a longer term impact from a narrower array of available new content. That said, we saw some exciting content at E3 that will come to market in the latter part of the year, and when great content comes to market, gamers are still showing up at the stores to buy it."

Here are the month's top selling games:

Rank Title Publisher
1 Diablo III Activision Blizzard
2 Max Payne 3 Take 2 Interactive
3 Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Ubisoft
4 Prototype 2 Activision Blizzard
5 NBA 2K12 Take 2 Interactive
6 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Activision Blizzard
7 Sniper Elite V2 505 Games
8 Battlefield 3 Electronic Arts
9 Dragon's Dogma Capcom USA
10 Just Dance 3 Ubisoft

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