10th Straight Month of Declines for U.S. Games Industry in August 2022 NPD Report Features Wins for Madden NFL & PlayStation 5

Apparently, because we can’t stop time, Summer’s close to its end here in the Northern Hemisphere. I hope you’ll take a brief moment to embrace the cool air that hits this time of year while watching your favorite football squad and reading through this latest blog of sales updates!

As it does every month, The NPD Group shared its report on consumer spending across the games industry earlier in the week. This time, it’s for August, which proved to be another down month fitting with a recent trend. Still, compared to the all-time record high of last year and considering various headwinds, it’s actually a really good result.

Spending across the three major categories of Video Game Content, Video Game Hardware and Video Game Accessories declined for the tenth consecutive month in a row, albeit a modest 5% dip to $4.1 billion. Compare that to over $4.3 billion in August 2021, and I believe this was the second best August result in tracked history. Not bad, right? Essentially, domestic sales are still in the midst of reversion towards pre-pandemic levels, and last month was slightly above this same time in 2020.

The Content segment’s contribution was down, which had an outsized impact because software and the like make up such a large portion of the domestic total. Even a hard-hitter like Madden NFL 23, which was predictably August’s best-selling premium title, and a Saints Row reboot couldn’t offset losses elsewhere, most notably in mobile.

Hardware was the standout in August, proving to be the brightest spot and yet another indication that availability is slowly improving. Especially for the latest generation of consoles. PlayStation 5 was August’s best-seller by both dollars and units. Importantly, both PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X|S family experienced double-digit gains compared to prior year, just as they did during July.

Now, one data point doesn’t make a trend. Neither does two. It’s still quite reassuring to see retail inventories going up for both Sony and Microsoft when all we’ve been hearing the past couple years is about supply issues.

Making sure to keep everything in perspective, gaming sales for 2022 are down 9%, with two of its categories in Content and Accessories showing double-digit drops. Again, we’re comparing against strong numbers this time last year. Plus, the industry is still facing pressure from inflation and spending on other entertainment verticals. This sort of stagnation was generally expected this year, and there’s still huge commercial success stories like Elden Ring even during a downturn.

“This is a huge positive shift in the previous market trend,” said The NPD Group’s Mat Piscatella to GameDaily. “Of course, this has been helped by the improved supply of new console hardware. And that’s really the key question going into the holiday.”

Now I’ll take a closer look at August’s numbers, starting first with the overall figures then diving into each category. Also see below for a complete list of the month’s best-selling games.

United States Games Industry Sales (July 31st, 2022 – August 26th, 2022)

During the month of August, consumers spent upwards of $4.1 billion across the games industry, down 5% versus the same time last year. This was mainly attributed to a slowing in software, mobile and related sales, since hardware was the sole area of gains.

Spanning 2022 to date, total sales are currently $34.6 billion. This is tracking 9% lower than the same eight months in 2021, when it was over $38 billion.

Content represented the largest portion, earning $3.59 billion in August or 87.5% of overall spending. This number was down 6% year-on-year and occurred despite a major release in the Madden NFL franchise, a perennial top-seller here in the States.

That’s because mobile continued as the biggest factor, facing its second consecutive month of double-digit declines. Mobile sales dipped 10% in August, highlighting how people aren’t spending as much time or money on mobile platforms right now. This spending dip was felt by both major stores as Google Play sales dropped 22% while Apple’s App Store experienced a more modest 1% decline. The NPD Group didn’t share the top-earning mobile titles.

The big story for premium games was yet another great start for football. And no, I’m not talking about the New York Football Giants being undefeated early in the season. It’s how Madden NFL 23 debuted as August’s number one. That marks a staggering 23 straight years that Electronic Arts’ pigskin series has kicked off its debut month with a win. Talk about a long run! This hot start makes it immediately the 5th best-selling game of 2022 so far.

Below that was an under-the-radar Saints Row reboot, ranking second in August. Intriguingly, this open world crime series from Volition is used to being the bridesmaid: August 2013’s Saints Row IV began in second during its first month, also behind that year’s Madden NFL title. Before that, Saints Row: The Third achieved 8th place in November 2011. This year’s game wasn’t well-received from a critical standpoint and had a lot of technical issues, though clearly benefited from its release window for a solid start.

2018’s Marvel’s Spider-Man jumped up the chart as the month’s biggest mover, leaping to third place from its prior rank of #84. Why? Well, because Sony is finally, slowly, opening its exclusive portfolio to PC players. The game’s remastered version hit PC storefronts last month. It was the top-selling game on Steam among those tracked by The NPD Group. Even Horizon Zero Dawn went from 28th up to #12, proving that the more platforms, the better for buyers.

In terms of new releases for August, the remaining best-seller was Soul Hackers 2 slotting in at #15. Which is a solid position for Atlus’ stylish role-playing game, appealing to a broader audience in the West. When a port for its predecessor hit Nintendo 3DS back in 2013, it understandably didn’t chart.

Taking a look at the 2022 rankings thus far, the only updates were caused by Madden NFL 23 kicking certain titles down the list. The Top 4 remain untouched: Elden Ring, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, Pokémon Legends: Arceus and Horizon Forbidden West. At present, there are two franchises both with two titles among the Top 20: Call of Duty and Madden NFL. Familiar faces, indeed.

Check below for the full lists then further down for console performance and peripheral sales in August.

Top-Selling Games of August 2022, U.S., All Platforms (Physical & Digital Dollar Sales):

  1. Madden NFL 23
  2. Saints Row 2022
  3. Marvel’s Spider-Man
  4. Elden Ring
  5. MultiVersus #
  6. Mario Kart 8*
  7. Minecraft
  8. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  9. MLB The Show 22^
  10. Xenoblade Chronicles 3*
  11. Digimon Survive
  12. Horizon Forbidden West
  13. Call of Duty: Vanguard
  14. Far Cry 6
  15. Soul Hackers 2
  16. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  17. Gran Turismo 7
  18. Kirby and the Forgotten Land*
  19. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  20. Pokémon Legends: Arceus*

Top-Selling Games of 2022 So Far, U.S., All Platforms (Physical & Digital Dollar Sales):

  1. Elden Ring
  2. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  3. Pokémon Legends: Arceus*
  4. Horizon Forbidden West
  5. Madden NFL 23
  6. MLB The Show 22^
  7. Call of Duty: Vanguard
  8. Gran Turismo 7
  9. Kirby and the Forgotten Land*
  10. Mario Kart 8*
  11. Minecraft
  12. Madden NFL 22
  13. Nintendo Switch Sports*
  14. FIFA 22
  15. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  16. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  17. Monster Hunter Rise
  18. Animal Crossing: New Horizons*
  19. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
  20. Mario Party Superstars*

I’m happy to report prospects for Hardware are looking up. Which is especially hopeful for those in the market for a shiny new console trying to beat the holiday rush.

Hardware was the only main category that grew during August, generating $375 million in sales or 14% higher than a year ago. Which tends to happen when people can actually buy consoles. Signs point to better inventories and the demand being there to meet it.

“Supply for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles has been improving in recent weeks,” said Piscatella. “However, we still aren’t seeing full distribution, so there is still some latent demand to be met. It’s very difficult for me to say whether or not we’re seeing the end of supply constraints or a temporary respite before we move into the holiday period and seasonal demand starts to play a role.”

That’s the question, right. Are these temporary upticks that will fade once higher input costs impact manufacturers? Have suppliers shored up the supply chain enough to keep retail stock consistent? Will we see enough PlayStations and Xboxes for Americans to buy in the fourth quarter?

For now, we use the data available and try to project. PlayStation 5 took home the top spot in August by both dollar sales and units. As a reminder, while PlayStation 5 topped July by revenue, Nintendo Switch led by units. This indicates that the latest monthly win for Sony wasn’t just a result of higher average selling price; it’s a byproduct of better general availability.

Going further, that stat of how both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S displayed double-digit year-on-year growth in August is key. It’s happened now for the second month in a row. When it’s occurring not just for one manufacturer, and not just for one month, we can maybe start to project out an improved supply scenario.

Between this, rumors of Sony potentially updating the PlayStation 5 hardware soon, Valve continuing to produce its Steam Deck handheld at a more rapid pace than expected and Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella talking about how Xbox Series X|S is outpacing every prior Xbox generation, there’s evidence mounting that manufacturers and their suppliers are finally ramping up output.

However, it’s nowhere near the end of supply-side concerns. Hardware as a category is still down in spending for 2022 right now, off 4% to $2.87 billion as of August. PlayStation 5 keeps its lead as the year’s top-selling platform by dollars, while Nintendo Switch is still on top when measured by units. There’s plenty to look forward to here, while also acknowledging the risks still in the market, especially when it comes to inflationary pressure and semiconductor shortages.

Rounding out the big segments is Accessories, which experienced the largest spending drop of the bunch in August. Purchasing on peripherals and related products declined 18% last month, to $138 million.

The NPD Group report attributed these losses to slowdowns for both game pad and headset sales. Sony’s PlayStation 5 DualSense Controller in Midnight Black was the top-selling accessory, same as July.

In aggregate for 2022, spending on Accessories is down 14% to $1.38 billion. Microsoft’s Xbox Elite Series 2 Wireless Controller tops the year’s list to date, which the premium game pad has done for quite some time now.

Really, it’s been somewhat of a lull for new product launches within this segment. That will change here in the near future, as both Sony and Microsoft announced upcoming controllers. Sony debuted its PlayStation DualSense Edge around a month ago as a premium offering to go along with its base DualSense model. No word yet on release date.

Then, in early September, Microsoft revealed a couple new products in its Elite series: The “Core” model in white, which is a lower-priced entry in the premium space. Not only that, Microsoft shared that it will open up its Design Lab controller customization options to its Elite series of premium game pads starting later this year.

Both of these product lines should provide a noticeable boon for Accessories in the coming months, and I’m extremely upbeat on the DualSense Edge in particular.

Even with the multiple months of declines lately for U.S. games industry spend, there’s a lot to like about The NPD Group’s most recent report. August 2021 was a historic time for the domestic industry, recording an all-time sales high. This time around, it was only the second best August ever.

Content, notably mobile, is still stacked up against high comparables. I was more upbeat on mobile than I probably should have been, and recent results prove that it’s not immune to slowdowns. Especially as people see other places to spend on entertainment.

What’s most reassuring is the continued evidence of an upturn in console supply. Plus, there are still plenty of folks who haven’t upgraded to the newest generation, either because they couldn’t find one or didn’t want to do so. The fact that there’s better availability is a promising sign going into the back stretch of 2022.

Speaking of, why not close out with some September predictions?

Within premium software, there’s a good amount of potential best-sellers from the list of new launches: The Last of Us Part 1, Splatoon 3, NBA 2K23 and FIFA 23 chief among them.

If Take-Two Interactive was still sharing digital split, I’d bet the house on NBA 2K23 scoring September’s win. Nintendo also doesn’t share downloads, so I’m shaky on Splatoon 3 even considering its tremendous start in Japan of 3.45 million units in three days.

Then there’s FIFA 23, representing the secondary form of football around these parts. Last year, FIFA 22 outranked NBA 2K22 during their first month on sale. Could there be a repeat?

Well, I’m actually thinking Madden NFL 23 goes back-to-back and scores September’s top slot. Then, Splatoon 3 will be right behind it followed by a combination of FIFA 23 and NBA 2K23. PlayStation’s The Last of Us Part 1 will be in the Top 7, I’m just hesitant on its upside.

What this all really means is September will be a fun one for software sales nerds!

Within consoles, I’m guessing PlayStation 5 earns top marks on revenue and Nintendo Switch sells the most units. Primarily because Splatoon 3 is the closest thing the Switch has had to a “system seller” in years.

That brings an end to August’s recap and September’s predictions. I’d point you to Piscatella’s Twitter thread for more information about the report.

I’ll be on vacation soon, though happy to reply to any questions or comments here or on social media in the meantime. Thanks all for hanging out, and be well!

*Digital Sales Not Included, ^Xbox & Nintendo Switch Digital Sales Not Included, #Founder’s Pack Edition Sales Only

Note: Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise mentioned.

Sources: GameDaily, Nikkei Asia (Image Credit), Nintendo, The NPD Group.

-Dom

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