The NPD has released the U.S. video game sales data for April, and according to initial information from both the Reuters news agency and analyst firm Wedbush Morgan, game sales rose 16 percent to $699 million in April compared to the previous year, unexpectedly ending seven months of consecutive decline in the market.
According to Wedbush Morgan, April's sales were particularly driven by Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts II (the top-selling PS2 title), Take-Two's The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Electronic Arts' The Godfather, and Ubisoft's Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (the top-selling Xbox 360 title, edging out Oblivion), along with Eidos' Tomb
Raider: Legend and Take-Two's Major League Baseball 2K6 (the top-selling Xbox title).
Elsewhere, Metroid Prime: Hunters for DS was the top-selling handheld title overall, with MLB 2006: The Show for PSP second and a robust showing for Nintendo's DS title Brain Training in third, while Sonic Riders was the top-selling Gamecube title for the month in a relatively depressed market.
Current generation software sales was down only $32 million, a surprisingly small amount, compared to the previous year, and next generation software sales were up around $85 million compared to lack of sales in April 2005. In addition, April PC software sales were up 12% to $67 million.
NPD data also revealed that Xbox 360 hardware sales in the U.S. to date were 1.5 million units, and Xbox 360 software sold very well in April (a tie ratio of over 4). However, Wedbush Morgan notes: "Over the succeeding several months, we think that it is possible (even likely) that software attach rates will be around 3 units per Xbox 360 hardware unit sold, particularly as the release dates for many key sequels appear on the horizon."
"The multi-month doldrums that have been facing the industry due to the console transition and the lack of truly blockbuster titles appears to be over, at least for now," NPD analyst Anita Frazier told Reuters. "We're on the road to recovery."
However, analysts Wedbush Morgan had a different conclusion: "The April sales figures reflected a reversal of a seven month software sales decline, although we expect the negative trend to resume in May and June." Nonetheless, the firm noted that the top May releases are expected to be Activision's X-Men: The Official Game and Over The Hedge and Nintendo's New Super Mario Brothers."
The Wedbush Morgan note, however, was accompanied by an interesting comment appended to the report: "Note that the NPD Group thought it captured 66.2% of all data in March, but thinks it captured only 60.7% of all data in April. This is not only the lowest factor (meaning the highest "projected" figure) we can find in NPD history, but the largest month-over-month decline we have ever seen. Normally these moves are 1% or less. We question whether the data are correct, but this is what they put out!"