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NPD: July video game sales worst since 2006

Plugged In

Retail video game sales nosedived in July, hitting their lowest level since October 2006.

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NCAA Football 12 (EA Sports)

Year over year sales were down 26 percent, with declines across the board in all hardware, software and accessories -- and no breakout hits. While July is often a slow month for the industry, the dip in software sales was more than twice as bad as Wall St. analysts were predicting.

Game sales fell 17 percent to $336 million, according to the NPD Group (versus analyst expectations of a 7 percent decline). As expected, EA's NCAA Football 12 led the field, but what's really shocking is the absence of some other high-profile releases.

Falling out of the top 10 were once-hot June releases Infamous 2 and L.A. Noire. And Nintendo's critically-acclaimed The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D? After placing fifth in June, it didn't even make the list.

"There were substantially fewer new releases this year, and the top selling games, with the exception of NCAA 12, didn't perform as well as last year's top sellers did," says NPD analyst Anita Frazier. "Looking across PC, console and portable game sales, 19 titles sold over 100,000 units last July, while this year, only 8 titles peaked 100,000 units."

The disappointing start for Zelda — easily the biggest 3DS release since its launch -- could be a big part of the reason Nintendo decided to pull the trigger on a massive price cut for the system, which goes into effect Friday.

Hardware sales, meanwhile, were off a whopping 29 percent. That's due, in part, to the fact that last July saw a flood of people buying Xbox 360s after Microsoft introduced a redesigned console in late June 2010.

The bad news isn't likely to improve next month, either. In years past, August game sales have been buoyed by the release of new Madden installments. Beginning this year, though, EA has decided to move the release date closer to the beginning of the NFL season, bumping it back to August 30.

How impactful will that be? Tackle this: 28 percent of last August's new physical retail software sales were from Madden 2011. This year, the game won't be counted until the September numbers.

For the year, the industry is 4 percent behind 2010's pace.

Here's a look at the Top 10 sellers for July:

Rank Title Publisher
1 NCAA Football 12 Electronic Arts
2 Cars 2 Disney Interactive Studios
3 Call of Duty: Black Ops Activision Blizzard
4 Lego Pirates of the Caribbean Disney Interactive Studios
5 Just Dance 2 Ubisoft
6 Major League Baseball 2K11 Take 2 Interactive
7 Zumba Fitness: Join the Party Majesco
8 Fallout: New Vegas Bethesda Softworks
9 New Super Mario Bros DS Nintendo
10 Mortal Kombat 2011 Warner Bros. Interactive

-- Play Bricks Breaking on Yahoo! Games --

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