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NPD: Game sales bounce back in September, hardware down

Plugged In

After setting five-year retail sales lows for the past three months, the video game industry finally showed signs of life in September — although those vitals weren't as strong as some industry observers were expecting.

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Madden NFL 12 (EA Sports)

Year-over-year sales were down 4 percent overall, but game software sales (the most closely followed statistic) were up 3 percent, the first positive growth in months.

Analysts had been looking for a jump in software sales of between 4 and 10 percent.

The hardware numbers were fairly abysmal. Sales of console and handheld game systems were down 9 percent, despite the release of several high-profile titles.EA's Madden series topped the month, having moved out of its usual early August launch window. Unfortunately, that move was bad news for Epic Games and Microsoft, which saw the final installment in the Gears of War trilogy come in second. Sony's Resistance 3, meanwhile, only managed to come in seventh.

The month's big surprise? That goes to first-person zombie romp Dead Island, which captured a surprising third place. Despite so-so reviews, the game's incredibly cinematic and emotional trailer convinced many to give it a shot.

As usual, NPD did not release specific hardware sales numbers, but Sony said in a statement that the PlayStation 3 saw its sales increase 20 percent year over year, as it continues to see strength from its August price cut. It was even better news for Nintendo, who managed to sell 260,000 3DS units during the month on the strength of the recent price drop. Microsoft, however, once again ruled the month with 438,000 Xbox 360s.

The NPD numbers only represent brick and mortar sales of new games for the video game industry, a number that's still significant, but losing dominance.

Earlier this month, NPD estimated second quarter digital revenues totaled $1.74 billion, while physical sales only hit $1.44 billion. In the first quarter retail sales totaled $2 billion, while digital sales were right around $1.85 billion. (The group's definition of "digital" includes used game sales, and game rentals as well, though.)

Here are the top 10 selling games of September.

Rank Title Publisher
1 Madden NFL 12 Electronic Arts
2 Gearsof War 3 Microsoft
3 Dead Island Deep Silver
4 FIFA Soccer 12 Electronic Arts
5 NHL 12 Electronic Arts
6 Deus Ex: Human Revolution Square Enix
7 Resistance 3 Sony
8 Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars LucasArts
9 Call of Duty: Black Ops Activision Blizzard
10 Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine THQ
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