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U.S. game sales fall 25% in May

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The Nintendo 3DS was the month's best seller (Credit: Nintendo)

Last week's E3 conference was a celebratory look at the growth that's expected to come in the gaming industry's near future. This week, though, it's back to the present -- and its harsh realities.

Retail sales of video game hardware and software were down 25 percent in May, according to The NPD Group. Total software sales -- combining console, portable games and PC titles sold at retail -- were down 44 percent compared to last year to $187.6 million.

However, that number doesn't include digital sales or used games, two significant omissions.

“When taking into account our preliminary estimate for other physical format sales in May such as used and rentals at $91 million, and our estimate for digital format sales including full game and add-on content downloads including micro-transactions, subscriptions, mobile apps, and the consumer spend on social network games at $339 million, the total consumer spend in May is $787 million,” said NPD analyst Liam Callahan.

[Related: Images from E3 2013]

The numbers were once again lower than analyst predictions and represent the worst month for software sales since April 2001.

Hardware took a dive, too, as the next-generation consoles took center stage. Sales were down 31 percent to $96 million, with the Nintendo 3DS leading the overall pack for the first time since its release by selling over 115,000 units. The Xbox 360 and PS3 managed to once again outperform the Wii U, however, which continued its dismal performance with only 33,000 sold.

NPD data is typically released on the second Thursday of each month, but because that date fell during E3 this month, it was delayed until Monday.

There were plenty of surprises in the report -- few of them good.

Capcom's Resident Evil: Revelations, which Wedbush's Michael Pachter had expected to lead the month's sales, failed to make the Top 10. EA's action game Fuse also failed to make the list, but the game was released late in the month and had a very limited marketing budget.

On the upside, Metro: Last Light, the one-time THQ game that was rescued by Deep Silver amid low sales expectations, did break into the Top 10. It was half of a surprising one-two punch for Deep Silver, who also landed zombie romp Dead Island: Riptide in fourth. But nothing could touch the cape of the month's top seller, Injustice: Gods Among Us from Warner Bros. Interactive.

Pretty much everyone has given up on 2013 showing any retail sales growth, with the exception of September, which will see the launch of the hotly-anticipated Grand Theft Auto V. Expected price cuts to current-generation consoles could ease the pain a bit, but analysts say sustained growth isn't something we're likely to see until 2014 -- after the launch of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Here's a look at May 2013's top selling games:

Rank Title Publisher
1 Injustice: Gods Among Us Warner Bros. Interactive
2 Call of Duty: Black Ops II Activision Blizzard
3 Donkey Kong Country Returns Nintendo
4 Dead Island: Riptide Deep Silver
5 Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon Nintendo
6 Metro: Last Light Deep Silver
7 NBA 2K13 Take 2 Interactive
8 Bioshock Infinite Take 2 Interactive
9 Battlefield 3 Electronic Arts
10 Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes Warner Bros. Interactive

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