Aug. game sales tank – but hope’s on the horizon

No one had real high expectations for last month’s video game sales.
And that’s probably a good thing, since it turned out to be the worst August in
three years.

Software sales fell 14 percent last month to $403.5 million,
according to The NPD Group – more than twice as much as some Wall St. analysts
were expecting. Hardware sales, meanwhile, were 5 percent below 2009’s level,
at $282.9 million – and the Wii had its worst sales month since the system’s launch.

All totaled, the industry at large saw sales fall 10 percent
coming in at $818.9 million.

While there’s no good news to be found there, video game
publishers are still breathing a sigh of relief. September is expected to begin
turning things around in the industry, as “Halo: Reach” and the PlayStation
Move motion controller kick start what could be a frantic holiday season.

There were two semi-clear winners in August. Microsoft saw
the Xbox 360 top console sales for the third consecutive month (and outsold
even the Nintendo DS for the second month in a row). And EA saw this year’s
“Madden” improve on last year’s dismal performance.

“Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty,” a PC exclusive from
Activision-Blizzard (ATVI), isn’t included among the console sales numbers, of
course, but NPD reports the game sold over 300,000 copies in the U.S. in August, which would have made it the month’s second best-selling title.

Finally acknowledging that its console sales numbers are an incomplete look at the video game marketplace, NPD also announced that it would soon begin releasing quarterly sales
reports that also include revenue from used games, digital downloads,
downloadable content, rental and subscription services, mobile games and social
networking games (such as Facebook).

When available, those should give investors a more complete
look at the financial health of the video game industry.

The month’s top 10 selling titles and sales numbers are
listed after the break: