Hardware sales down, offsetting hit 'Mass Effect 3'

March was another depressing month for the videogame biz in the U.S., generating $1.1 billion in sales, down 25% over the same frame a year ago.

While Electronic Arts’ “Mass Effect 3″ bested its previous installment, doubling sales during its first month in stores, sales of hardware dragged down the rest of the industry, according to NPD Group.

Software earned $553 million, declining 25%, while hardware was down 35% to $324 million.

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 ranked No. 1 among consoles — it’s been the bestselling unit for the past 15 months.

Sales of toys based on Activision’s “Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure” continue to sell “phenomenally well,” said NPD analyst Anita Frazier.

The games biz has now chalked up four straight months of sales declines. It was off 8% for all of 2011 as more consumers opt for cheaper gaming options, especially online.

NPD’s data does not include used game sales, rentals, subscriptions, mobile games, social network games, digital full-game downloads and add-on content, which it estimates would have generated another $2.5 billion-$2.7 billion across the U.S., U.K., France and Germany during the first quarter of the year.

“While it was a disappointing month, and first quarter, for new physical retail sales of videogames hardware, software and accessories, it wasn’t entirely unexpected given guidance we’ve seen from several sources,” Frazier said.

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