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Game industry off to slow start in 2013, Xbox 360 outselling Wii U

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Ni No Kuni: The Wrath of the White Witch (Credit: Namco/Bandai)

If you look at the raw numbers, it would appear that the video game industry halted its two-year sales decline in January -- but numbers can be deceiving.

Video game software sales were up 1 percent in January as compared to a year ago and hardware sales climbed 4 percent, according to the NPD Group. Before you break out the bubbly, however, this is an apples-to-oranges comparison.

In truth, software sales were actually down 19 percent, and hardware sales slipped 17 percent. The reason is that the January 2013 data covered a five-week span, from Dec. 30 to Feb 2. Last January’s numbers covered only a four-week period.

“Overall retail video game sales -- hardware, software, and accessories -- would be down 13 percent, instead of up 9 percent, if sales were normalized to account for the 5-week January,” said NPD analyst Liam Callahan.

Retail sales, of course, only make up a portion of the overall video game market. But because reporting on digital sales is spotty at best, they are the only window of clarity for industry observers to get a sense of the industry’s overall health.

What’s perhaps most surprising is the seemingly poor performance of Nintendo’s new Wii U system. Though we’ve yet to see official sales figures, people familiar with the hard numbers tell Yahoo! Games that the Wii U suffered low sales throughout January, lagging far behind the month’s leading console, the Xbox 360, which ruled the hardware chart for the 25th consecutive week with 281,000 units sold. Gamasutra notes that cumulative three-month Wii U sales are 38% lower than the original Wii’s first three months on the market. Sony has yet to release numbers for the PS3.

Call of Duty: Black Ops II again led the software charts, and only one new game released in January, DMC: Devil May Cry, managed a spot in the Top 10, coming in at a mediocre sixth place. The other big January release, critical darling Ni No Kuni, just missed cracking the Top 10 by coming in at 11. Below is a complete list of the month’s best selling titles.

Rank Title Publisher
1 Call of Duty: Black Ops II Activision Blizzard
2 Far Cry 3 Ubisoft
3 Just Dance 4 Ubisoft
4 NBA 2K13 Take 2 Interactive
5 Madden NFL 13 Electronic Arts
6 DMC: Devil May Cry Capcom USA
7 Halo 4 Microsoft
8 Assassin's Creed III Ubisoft
9 Skylander Giants Activision Blizzard
10 FIFA Soccer 13 Electronic Arts

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