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NPD: Early ‘Call of Duty’ Launch Led to Flat November Sales

Spending across video game hardware, software, accessories, and game cards was flat in November 2018 at $2.7 billion compared to the same time last year, according to market research company The NPD Group. And it might be thanks to “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.”

While total industry spending was reportedly flat, it did see some gains in hardware, accessories, and game card spending last month. Those categories grew 16% to $13.2 billion compared to the same time period in 2017. “This is the highest year-to-date total spend achieved since the $13.9 billion achieved between January and November 2010,” said The NPD Group analyst Mat Piscatella.

But, those gains were offset by a decline in software spending that was largely due to “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s” launch date shifting from November to October. Dollar sales of console, portable, and PC games software totaled $1 billion in November, down 15% compared to 2017. But, year-to-date sales in those categories exceeded $5.8 billion, a 9% increase over the same time period last year. That’s the highest year-to-date total for software spending since 2011.

Rockstar Games’ open-world Western “Red Dead Redemption 2” was the best-selling game of November, and the second best-selling game year-to-date. “With two months in market, sales of ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ now exceed the lifetime sales of the previous title in the franchise, ‘Red Dead Redemption,’ by nearly 40%,” Piscatella said.

“Call of Duty: Black Ops 4” was the second best-selling game of the month, and the best-selling game year-to-date. It’s also reportedly the fastest selling game ever on the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. This is the fifth consecutive year, and the ninth time in the last 10 years, that a “Call of Duty” title has been the best-selling game from January through November.

Bethesda’s online role-playing game “Fallout 76” was the fourth best-selling title last month, despite the publisher not reporting digital sales, Piscatella said. The game’s physical sales had the third highest launch month in franchise history behind “Fallout 4” and “Fallout New Vegas.”

“Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu” rounded out the top five best-selling games of November, while it’s sister game, “Pokémon: Let’s Go Eevee” came in sixth. Launch month sales of “Let’s Go Pikachu” are the second highest in franchise history, trailing only the Nintendo 64 title “Pokémon Stadium.” Like Bethesda, however, Nintendo didn’t report digital sales.

Meanwhile, video game hardware spending in November grew 3% to $1.2 billion compared to a year ago. The Nintendo Switch led in dollar sales for the month and its significant growth helped offset declines in spending across all other platforms, Piscatella said. But, the PlayStation 4 is still the leader in hardware platform dollar sales year-to-date.

The three console platforms reached more than one million units sold in a November month for the first time in history. Each one generated over 1.3 million units of sales, Piscatella said. “It is only the second time in history any three platforms achieved more than one million units sold in a November period,” he said. “The first occurred in November 2010, when the Nintendo DS, Wii and Xbox 360 achieved the feat.”

Total spending on accessories and game cards grew 35% last month compared to a year ago, reaching an all-time high of $503 million. Year-to-date spending also grew 35% to an all-time high of $3.5 billion.

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