Nintendo Announces Switch Lifetime Hardware Sales Pass 110 Million as Revenue & Profit Dip in 1st Quarter 2023

First it was Microsoft. Then it was Sony. Now it’s time for Nintendo to get in on the action, reporting its first quarter fiscal 2023 (already!) financial results out of Japan today.

Like trends seen at other console manufacturers, Nintendo’s numbers were mixed with a sprinkling of positive highlights and major milestones. The Kyoto-based manufacturer and publisher is experiencing normalization back towards pre-pandemic levels, facing the impact of a high comparable last year, hardware supply challenges, inflationary pressure plus a lighter lineup of summer blockbusters.

During the three months ending June, Switch passed a major milestone in terms of its global unit sales. It’s now become only the third home console ever to surpass the 110 million units shipped threshold, sharing such rarefied air with Sony’s PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 4. Even amidst chip shortages going into its sixth year on market, the Switch is persevering.

Even so, Nintendo’s financials proved to be weaker than the same time last year. Both revenue and operating profit experienced declines, the latter in the double-digit range. Gains due to a weaker yen and Switch OLED’s higher contribution couldn’t outweigh pressure from chip shortages and people returning to experiential spending elsewhere. It’s also important to keep in mind how the last two years have been outliers, in many respects.

“Positive factors included the depreciation of the yen and the addition of Nintendo Switch OLED Model with its high unit price to the hardware lineup,” executives shared in the company’s presentation. “But hardware production was impacted by factors such as the global shortage of semiconductor components, resulting in a decrease in hardware shipments and subsequent decline in overall sales.”

This is partially due to lower software unit sales, as Switch saw less than half as many “million-sellers” in this year’s fiscal Q1. New releases centered on casual sports, as both Nintendo Switch Sports and Mario Strikers: Battle League hit during this window, and both became million-sellers. Kirby and the Forgotten Land continues its excellent performance, becoming the best-selling game ever in the mainline Kirby franchise. Like usual, Nintendo’s software results were bolstered by ongoing momentum from the likes of Mario Kart 8, Animal Crossing: New Horizons and the healthy Ring Fit Adventure.

Nintendo, and I, expected this sort of movement from last year’s highs based on things like the general release slate and various macroeconomic factors. Which is why the company reaffirmed annual guidance around sales, profitability, hardware and software units. I’ll write a bit later about my own forecasts given this framework.

There’s not a moment to waste! It’s time to slide right into the numbers. Get ready for two whole galleries of images, the first from Nintendo’s presentation and the second a grouping of my own charts displaying key financial indicators.

During this April to June time frame, Nintendo generated around $2.37 billion in revenue or 5% lower than last year when measured in local currency. Operating profit totaled $784 million, representing a 15% drop on rising expenses mainly associated with Switch marketing and game development.

It’s a classic mean reversion I’ve written about for similar results recently, a dip towards more normalized spending after two years of substantial boosts from the pandemic. While COVID and its variants are still present, there are more people vaccinated which means they are turning to other types of entertainment outside the house. That is, when they can afford it. People’s hard-earned cash isn’t going as far lately as many countries suffer from the worst inflation in decades.

There’s also the more technical element of yen depreciation, which ends up hurting Japanese companies whose primary business is conducted overseas. This leads into Nintendo’s latest regional breakout which saw 44% from The Americas, a number consistent with last year’s split. Then it’s Europe at 26%, up from 24%. It follows that Japan now represents only 20% of Nintendo’s business, down from 22%. This means that only one-fifth of its revenue is gained locally, meaning a weaker yen has a significant effect on its sales.

Now I’ll dig into product categories underlying Nintendo’s quarterly output. Software and related content comprised 56% of Q1 revenue, up from 53%. It follows that Switch hardware made up the remaining 44%, down compared to the 47% a year ago. What this indicates is hardware is losing ground at a more rapid pace than software, as the latter benefits greatly from ongoing events or downloadable content for legacy titles. If it wasn’t for the Switch OLED model, this skew would be even more towards software.

There are two charts in the below gallery showing the trend of quarterly revenue and profit, where we see the declined compared to recent years however still trending above that from fiscal 2019. Then there’s the two charts which smooth out these results by showing trailing 12-month figures, as I add up the latest four quarters. Trailing annual revenue is right near $13 billion for Nintendo, severely hampered by the yen weakness when converted to dollars. Operating income over the last year is $4.43 billion. This helps keep the overall business in context, rather than focusing strictly on shorter-term movement.

Using these recent annual figures, I’d like to compare Nintendo’s results to industry peers in Tencent, Sony and Microsoft. I will preface this by saying the conversion from yen is really taking a toll on Nintendo and Sony right now. Tencent’s $33 billion in annual gaming revenue is untouchable, though it’s the only one of these that hasn’t reported this quarter and I expect it could decline. Sony’s $21 billion from PlayStation is up next, then Microsoft’s Xbox revenue of $16.22 billion comes in third. If Microsoft’s accounted for Activision Blizzard, which it won’t until next year, it would rival Sony’s output. Which means Nintendo’s revenue is on the lower end at $13 billion. However, Nintendo’s $4.43 billion in operating profit over the last 12 months is higher than PlayStation’s $2.44 billion.

Focusing now on Nintendo’s console business, Switch shipped 3.43 million units globally during the quarter. That’s down 23% from the 4.45 million in Q1 of fiscal 2022. It’s the lowest number of Switch hardware shipments since 3.28 million in January to March 2020.

The base model felt the most precipitous drop, moving down 60% to 1.32 million of the quarterly total. Switch Lite posted a 48% dip, shipping 590K. Which means the Switch OLED model was the best-selling in the family during the last three months, moving 1.52 million boxes. That brings the lifetime total of just Switch OLED to 7.32 million since October 2021. This was precisely Nintendo’s intention, to shift buyers towards the fancy, higher-priced OLED.

Overall, Switch lifetime shipments now total 111.08 million. Compare that to lifetime sales of 89 million at this same time in calendar 2021. In an ironic twist, Switch is now the third home console AND the third portable device to pass the 110 million mark. PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 4 reached 155 million and 117 million, respectively. Separately, on the handheld side, Nintendo’s own Nintendo DS achieved 154 million while Game Boy/Game Boy Color settled at almost 119 million. For now, the PlayStation 4 is in the Switch’s sights, especially since Sony stopped reporting its prior generation hardware figures just this quarter.

As referenced in an earlier slide, sell-through to consumers for the quarter ending June declined for the second year in a row. While the company didn’t specify the exact amount, the trend-line is clear at this point in the life cycle. Especially given the tremendous impact from Animal Crossing: New Horizons back in March 2020, when sell-through of Switch consoles peaked.

Even amidst lower global hardware sales, Switch is still holding up among its counterparts in its biggest market. That’s according to the Q2 2022 report from industry tracking firm The NPD Group, an often cited source here at the site. Switch was the best-selling console in the U.S. during April to June when measured by units, and is still the year’s best-seller by this metric as I wrote earlier in the month. This dynamic makes sense given the Switch’s more attractive pricing and consistent availability at retail, plus supply challenges having an outsized effect on new generation consoles.

Switching over to Nintendo’s software sales for the quarter, it’s a bit brighter than its hardware counterpart. In that it didn’t see as big a decline from a unit standpoint.

Total game shipments in the period ending June declined to 41.4 million, down 9% from the prior year’s 45.29 million. Namely because it was a quiet time for those million-sellers: only four games sold this amount in the period alone, and none of them were from third parties. Compare that to 9 this time a year ago, 7 from Nintendo and the remainder from external partners. So, while there are select titles hitting this threshold, there were less of them amidst a sparse release calendar.

Because of this, lifetime software unit sales for Switch reached 863.59 million. That’s up from 892.18 million back in March, and 587.12 million back in June 2021. Might it cross 900 million by September? (Yes.)

Nintendo decided to kick off the summer with two sports titles during the three months ending June, launching both Nintendo Switch Sports and Mario Strikers: Battle League.

Nintendo Switch Sports scored 4.84 million shipments in its debut quarter. It’s tricky to compare this to prior mainline Sports releases, the last major one being Wii Sports Club in 2014, itself a remake of the original 2006 Wii Sports which launched alongside the ever-popular Wii console. There’s also Wii Sports Resort that released in 2009 at 1.61 million. We could also compare to Wii Fit, which started at 3.6 million. Any way you slice it, it’s a strong start to a title Nintendo expects could keep up momentum over time as more content rolls out.

Mario Strikers: Battle League spent less time on sale after its mid-June launch, shipping 1.91 million copies since. It’s the first mainline Mario Strikers title in 15 years, back when Mario Strikers Charged accumulated 1.71 million in its first quarter. That puts this latest game slightly higher than its predecessor’s initial sales.

The last flagship Switch game of the quarter was Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. This one hit market during the final week of June and is co-published by Koei Tecmo. Nintendo hasn’t publicly shared any results for it just yet.

As for earlier games, Kirby and the Forgotten Land continues its expansion, which is natural for Kirby. It’s scooping up sales left and right, amassing 4.53 million units to date after selling-in another 1.88 million in fiscal Q1. During its first 15 weeks on sale, it’s already sold-through over 4 million copies. That’s the best cumulative sales to consumers ever for the series, already outpacing the lifetime total of 2018’s Kirby Star Allies.

The best-selling first party Switch game list is unchanged at the top. Mario Kart 8, of course, somehow sold another 1.48 million to bring its lifetime total past the 46 million mark, settling at 46.82 million. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is at 39.38 million, while Super Smash Bros. Ultimate fought up to 28.82 million.

Fan favorite Ring Fit Adventure remains in the Top 10 best-selling on the platform, moving 450K units up to 14.54 million. It’s creeping up on a couple Pokémon games, I’d wager it can move into 8th place on the lifetime Switch sellers list by year-end.

Speaking of Pokémon, for 2022 to date in the U.S., Pokémon: Legends Arceus remains on the best-selling premium list, currently catching the third spot as of June. That’s according to The NPD Group, and it doesn’t even include the game’s digital portion. The aforementioned Kirby and the Forgotten Land and Mario Kart 8 are presently 8th and 9th, respectively.

Another growth avenue for Nintendo last quarter was digital sales of software, rising 16% to $679 million. That comes out to roughly 29% of its total revenue. Nintendo also shared that more than half of software sales are now digital, at 53% of the total. This is up from 47% last year, partially due to downloadable content like Animal Crossing: New Horizons Happy Home Paradise and the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack offering.

Unfortunately, there’s no new data on Nintendo Switch Online subscription count. The most recent update from the company was 32 million in September 2021. Management did state that sales from this online service are “showing growth,” just didn’t indicate by how much.

And as we’ve seen many times before, Nintendo’s engagement stats are lacking. Its “Annual Playing Users” metric is now up to 104 million, compared to 102 million last quarter. To me, this doesn’t mean much other than people that buy a Switch turn it on at least once in the last 12 months. Not the most descriptive of metrics.

It’s a decent start to the new fiscal year for Nintendo, seeing drops where expected on the hardware side and maintaining solid results for both new games and ongoing software spending. It’s too early for the forecast to change, even given the amount of uncertainty that exists on the supply side plus game release dates moving around soon.

“Due to delays in the procurement of components such as semiconductors this year, we have not been able to conduct production as planned.” management said. “However, we expect procurement to gradually improve from late summer towards autumn, giving us a clearer outlook regarding production for the remaining calendar year. In preparation for the holiday season, we will leverage appropriate means of shipment, and work to deliver as many Nintendo Switch systems as possible to
consumers in every region.”

As a quick reminder on its guidance, Nintendo anticipates sales will decline in the single digits this fiscal year to roughly $12.34 billion at the current exchange rate, a figure in dollars that could improve if the yen improves. Operating profit is expected to take a bigger hit, dipping 16% to under $3.9 billion. Which would be the lowest result since the pandemic begin, yet still above levels prior to that point.

It’s on the conservative side, which is where I’m at as well. When there’s this many unknowns, both at a macro level and within the games industry, I tend to be cautious. I think it’s prudent for executives to do the same, especially for a company like Nintendo which isn’t as diversified as other consumer technology peers.

I continue to believe there won’t be any substantial new Switch iterations over the next few quarters. Instead, Nintendo should be working more on a successor than a model change. As for units, I’m reiterating my forecast of 20 million to 21 million which is a bit lower than Nintendo’s 21 million guidance. Right now, I’m slightly more bearish than management.

Another portion that Nintendo left unchanged is the guidance of 210 million software units selling in the year ending March 2023. Nintendo reiterated that stance, which I lean towards being a bit high unless a couple key titles hit market in this time frame.

Short term Xenoblade Chronicles 3 launch a few days back. Kirby’s Dream Buffet is a smaller title slated sometime this summer. Next up, there’s a pair of “third in the series” entries in Splatoon 3 and Bayonetta 3, launching in September and October respectively. Out of these, I’m way upbeat on the latter, the first mainline Bayonetta game since 2014.

I expect Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet, which are introducing all new pocket monsters, could potentially break records for early sales for the franchise on Switch and overall upon debuting in November. Granted, there’s been a lot of Pokémon lately. That won’t stop the series from selling, especially when there’s a new generation to collect.

The Legend of Zelda is the proverbial, hm.. wild card of the bunch. Will there be a new version of something like Windwaker soon? Might Nintendo put out a Switch version of Twilight Princess? That would be well and good, and certainly attract demand. It really comes down to whether the fabled Breath of the Wild sequel hits by March 2023. At least for now, it remains listed as Spring 2023 in Nintendo’s reporting. If I was to guess, I’m mildly confident it’s out this fiscal year.

Finally, there’s also Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp and Metroid Prime 4. Both stayed as to-be-announced in Nintendo’s presentation. If anything, I’d wager the former has a better chance of hitting this fiscal year because it was scheduled to be out already. I don’t see the latter until the back half of calendar 2023, the earliest.

With its latest hardware sales milestone and a lot of good games before its life cycle ends, it’s still an exciting time to be a Switch owner. Especially for fans of JRPGs, sports games and Pokémon. Investors may be wearier, though shouldn’t let declines from all-time highs distract from Nintendo still being in its best financial shape since the Wii era.

Thanks for visiting the site and checking out this analysis. Feel free to drop a comment here or on social media. Enjoy the remainder of earnings season everyone!

Note: Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise mentioned. Exchange rate is based on reported average conversion: US $1 to ¥129.66.

Sources: Company Investor Relations Websites, The NPD Group.

-Dom

Microsoft’s Xbox Sales Reach New Fiscal Year High in 2022 Despite Fourth Quarter Declines in Content & Hardware

It’s here. My first big recap article of this latest earnings season!

In case it wasn’t clear from my recent calendar post, late July signals the start of that season. Let’s kick it off with Microsoft’s fourth quarter fiscal 2022 results, which means I’ll cover both quarterly and annual figures. The more, the better!

This latest 3-month period featured somewhat mixed results that capped off a historic year for the company’s gaming division, where it achieved the best ever fiscal revenue for Xbox as a brand.

As anticipated, gaming revenue declined in the quarter ending June 2022, dipping 7% to roughly $3.45 billion. Like many results lately in the industry, it sounds a lot worse than it was. This number is the second best Q4 in Xbox history, trailing behind only last year’s massive $3.71 billion spike.

It’s one of those “good enough” scenarios, falling perfectly in-line with the company’s, and my, expectations of a mid-to-high single digit decline. Either a big beat or epic miss would have been much more newsworthy.

What’s important is the impact on fiscal year revenue from Xbox, which moved past $16 billion for the first time ever. That’s yet another all-time year for gaming at Microsoft. It’s the sixth straight fiscal year where Xbox has achieved record sales.

Underlying this growth was upward movement in Content and Services, which houses software sales along with the likes of Xbox Game Pass and cloud offerings. A constant here has been claims from management that Xbox Game Pass subscriptions have been steadily increasing, although the team still hasn’t shared an updated sub figure since the 25 million I wrote about back in January.

On the other hand, Xbox hardware sales have stagnated over the latest 12 months which resulted in a double-digit decline during the year. Which is curious, considering comments from Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Satya Nadella indicate the family of devices is selling better than ever.

“We’ve sold more consoles life-to-date than any previous generation of Xbox and have been the market leader in North America for three quarters in a row among next gen consoles,” Nadella said in his prepared remarks on the earnings conference call.

The declining revenue along with high unit sales indicate a major talking point to me: There’s a high proportion of unit sales coming from the lower-priced Xbox Series S. Which fits with mounting evidence and anecdotes that these are much easier to find and plays from a manufacturing cost standpoint because they are less expensive to make. Plainly, Microsoft and its suppliers can’t produce enough high-end Xbox Series X boxes to grow hardware revenue. I expect high input costs to continue, thus this trend will keep up into the new fiscal year.

Now I’ll dig into the underlying numbers and highlight key trends from this report.

Peeking first at the above slides from Microsoft, they show that 7% decline in quarterly gaming revenue which gets us to that $3.45 billion figure. Not bad considering Xbox achieved a best-ever Q4 result this time last year!

The main reasons for lower sales proved to be people spending less time and money on the platform over those 3 months, which impacted purchasing of both first-party and third-party software. The main bright spot was growth in Xbox Game Pass subscriptions. I’ll go more into these segments in a bit.

Expanding to a longer time frame is my chart, which shows 12-month trailing sales figures for the Xbox business unit. This shows a couple major points.

First, if we focus strictly on each fourth quarter, it displays that record high fiscal year from Xbox: $16.22 billion between July 2021 to June 2022 compared to the prior record holder of fiscal 2021 at $15.37 billion.

Subsequently, the full chart illustrates last quarter was the first decline for trailing annual gaming sales since back in Q2 of fiscal 2020. That initial rise back then corresponds to quarters leading into the start of quarantines during the pandemic, and the figure has since leveled off right around $16 billion lately. Still, it’s only a 2% decline from last quarter’s all-time best. Which is something I’ve expected given the strong prior years and macroeconomic forces at play, including inflation.

Note: These dollar totals are based on growth rates over the prior year. Microsoft has yet to publish its 10K filing, I’m confident the math will be very close.

Where does this put Xbox sales right now in comparison to major peers in the games industry?

Since Microsoft is the first to report, I’ll use the latest annual figures for the likes of Tencent, Sony and Nintendo. Tencent is the clear leader of the pack, aggregating to annual sales of $33 billion. Sony is up next, reaching $24.4 billion. That number will refresh later this week when the company reports on Friday. That leads into Microsoft’s $16.22 billion, which will increase when the Activision Blizzard deal closes to somewhere between $23 to $24 billion depending on redundancies and cost-savings. Lastly, Nintendo is close to Microsoft’s current figure, hitting $15 billion in yearly sales.

The main caveat I’ll note when comparing across the industry is how revenue is one of many metrics used to gauge financial strength. I’d prefer profitability when available, however Microsoft does not report this granularity for Xbox alone.

That doesn’t mean we can’t glean anything on Xbox’s profit contribution from this recent report. The broader segment of More Personal Computing (MPC) experienced an operating income decline of 5% as expenses rose 8%. Microsoft called out Windows, Search and news advertising as main drivers of this weakening profit dynamic, which indicates that gaming’s contribution likely remained consistent. Which I’d say is good news, especially for the cost of making consoles.

For the quarter ending June 2022, both of Xbox’s main segments of Xbox Content & Services and Xbox Hardware suffered declines. Although the latter was more precipitous, neither was very concerning to me because of where we are in the broader cycle plus supply conditions being nowhere near normal.

Starting with Content & Services, this segment contributed 6% lower sales than a year ago. Which, like total Xbox revenue, was in-line with the company’s guidance and my own expectations. This equates to $2.77 billion in Q4, implying it contributed around 80% of the total. Another way to consider this is 4 out of every 5 dollars spent on Xbox was on software, downloadable content, subscriptions and non-hardware purchasing.

In fact, the latest annual contribution from Content & Services is a big positive for the Xbox brand. It’s now above $12.5 billion, or 77% of the total, a dollar figure which is actually up 3% compared to the prior year. That means despite weakness in the fourth quarter, Content & Services had its best fiscal year in reported history.

The main factor, of course, is Xbox Game Pass momentum and its proven impact on spending habits for ongoing subscribers. While executives refuse to share anything beyond the 25 million figure, I estimate it’s closer to 30 million by now. I’d wager it hasn’t breached that milestone. Because otherwise Microsoft would have said so!

There’s also the element of offerings like Xbox Cloud Gaming plus recent partnerships with companies like Epic Games and Samsung. Microsoft is benefiting from rounding out its ecosystem play and expanding how and where people play, which has a tangible effect on revenue growth even as individual title sales may slow.

“We’ve partnered with Epic Games to make Fortnite available for free via browser,” noted Nadella in an example of this strategy. “Over 4 million people have streamed the game to date, including over 1 million who were new to our ecosystem.”

Hardware is proving to be the more challenging business line for Xbox, declining 11% in the quarter to under $680 million. That’s the second lowest output in the past seven quarters, no doubt impacted by higher margins and continuously low availability of the premium Xbox Series X version.

Along the lines of its counterpart, the annual numbers are more reassuring. Microsoft generated $3.7 billion from Xbox console sales in fiscal 2022, which is up from $3.2 billion previously. That’s a gain of nearly 16%. This is mainly due to excellent performance during the initial stages of this fiscal year, meaning hardware has trailed off recently.

That’s not to say demand isn’t there. It’s mainly that Xbox is selling its lower-priced SKU, which doesn’t boost the top-line as much. Last quarter, I posited that lifetime unit sales of Xbox Series X|S could be between 14 million and 14.5 million. After this latest period, I’m estimating it at 16 million to 16.5 million.

It’s unfortunate we don’t know for sure, especially since Sony and Nintendo are more transparent.

The last numbers I’ll cover before wrapping up are for Microsoft as a whole. The firm generated $51.9 billion in revenue, up 12%. Operating profit reached $20.5 billion, or an increase of 8%. Quarterly sales from Microsoft Cloud moved past $25 billion for the first time ever, jumping 28% year-on-year.

Focusing on the More Personal Computing (MPC) business unit, it was responsible for $14.4 billion in sales. This means Xbox, at $3.45 billion, made up almost a quarter of the segment’s total.

These results are quite staggering as the company benefited greatly from hybrid working models and enterprise cloud usage. Still, quarterly revenue and earnings both missed analyst consensus estimates.

During the full fiscal year, Microsoft posted $198 billion in revenue and $83 billion in operating profit. It’s hard to even understand these numbers!

Now to look ahead, let’s focus on gaming within the broader company.

According to Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Amy Hood, here’s the rundown of guidance for the first quarter of fiscal year 2023, which runs from this July to September. Note this does not include any impact from the Activision Blizzard deal, which it still expects to close by June 2023.

Gaming revenue is forecasted to decline in the “low to mid single digits” driven by a drop in first party software. Content & Services has that same exact guidance. Though the management team does anticipate Xbox Game Pass subscriptions will grow again and thinks Hardware will rise as well, albeit didn’t provide any more specifics.

Let’s assume “low to mid single digits” means a dip of 3%, that should be a good barometer. This implies total quarterly revenue from Xbox of around $3.48 billion, or the second best Q1 on record. Then, for both Content & Services to decline and Hardware to increase, the former must decline 4% or more. Which would follow that Hardware can increase a percent or two and the math still works out.

Personally, I do expect a slight decline in total Xbox sales during the current quarter. There’s a handful of major 3rd party titles, including a new Madden game in August, and Xbox Game Pass will certainly have a few great additions. It’s just last year’s high was powerful, it remains a tough comparison. I’m not so sure about Hardware gains, that’s where I’m skeptical. I’m expecting flat to slightly negative contribution there unless something changes with the split of Xbox Series S to Xbox Series X.

On a bit longer of a timeline, where’s the growth other than the traditional means? There’s the clear upside of bringing Xbox Cloud Gaming to other television brands outside of Samsung. Then the substantiated plus rumors of the team developing a dongle-like device like a Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick. And, of course, people calling for Xbox to make a handheld now that both Nintendo and Valve have active portable gaming devices.

“As announced last year, we’ve been working on a game-streaming device, codename Keystone, that could be connected to any TV or monitor without the need for a console,” a Microsoft spokesperson said to Windows Central, who first reported on the cloud stick’s development.

“We are constantly evaluating our efforts, reviewing our learnings, and ensuring we are bringing value to our customers. We have made the decision to pivot away from the current iteration of the Keystone device. We will take our learnings and refocus our efforts on a new approach that will allow us to deliver Xbox Cloud Gaming to more players around the world in the future.”

So, I’m a believer in the expansion of cloud and whatever this Project Keystone turns out to be. I don’t expect the dongle to hit market this fiscal year, so that will impact future time frames. And I really don’t think an Xbox handheld fits with its direction, for a multitude of reasons that I’ll probably write about at some point! What I do expect is for Xbox Game Studios to ramp up its output in 2023, featuring titles like Starfield and Redfall plus some surprises too.

That concludes Xbox’s results this quarter. I’ll be back soon with articles on other major gaming companies, and updates on social media throughout the coming weeks. Thanks for reading and be safe all!

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

Sources: Company Investor Relations Websites, Windows Central.

-Dom

Elden Ring Retains Top Spot for Software as Total Spending Declines Again in June 2022 U.S. Games Industry Sales Report

The first half of 2022 is in the books, and the year’s best-selling premium game Elden Ring has repeated as the top software amidst another downward slide in consumer spending.

Based on today’s monthly sales report from tracking firm The NPD Group, FromSoftware’s masterpiece has led the premium ranks every month since launch in February except for one.

This sort of early success, even for the premium soulslike developer, is truly remarkable. Plus, it’s mostly unpredictable even for the most bullish of analysts. Including me!

Speaking generally on the industry, while June wasn’t as quiet as May, it’s still been a chill start to the summer. Overall spend dipped double-digits again in June, marking eight consecutive months of declines. Subscription growth couldn’t outpace headwinds from most other categories. The first half of 2022 was no different for total market spending, coming in 10% lower than last year.

Two of the major segments, Content and Accessories, also declined double-digits. Hardware performed the best from a percentage standpoint, even if still down. Better PlayStation 5 inventories and the lower cost Switch helped stabilize a bit. Perhaps even the Steam Deck?

As I’ve said in recent articles, these reversions to more normalized spending are expected this year as we exit quarantine highs and suffer from the worst inflation in decades. It’s eroding buying power, which hurts when combined with limited supply on the hardware front and fewer premium launches.

Within the broadest category of Content, mobile spending fell albeit at a slower pace than May. Earlier titles Elden Ring and Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga led the premium charts, while Mario Strikers Battle League debuted in the Top 3. There were five new entries among the Top 20 best-selling games.

There was a flip in Hardware that’s actually quite noteworthy. PlayStation 5 took the reigns in June as the best-selling console by dollar sales. Not only that, it also led first half of 2022 by this metric, stealing it away from the Xbox Series X|S family which was in the lead until now. This indicates Sony secured enough production to satiate more demand, not to mention its premium price point boosting that monthly revenue figure.

Speaking of the first half, the biggest factors right now for domestic spending on games are mean reversion from earlier parts of the pandemic, rampant inflation, availability of hardware at retail plus minimal premium games. Subscriptions and ongoing content aren’t enough to push spending towards growth. It’s a cooling off period compared to recent history for this variety of reasons, as the broader economy signals a looming recession. In fact, we might already be there.

What about the numbers behind these trends? It’s time to look deeper into June’s report.

United States Games Industry Sales (May 29th, 2022 – July 2nd, 2022)

Overall sales in June across all gaming categories settled at $4.34 billion, or 11% behind the same month in 2021. This figure is off 10% when expanding to the first six months of 2022, aggregating to $26.27 billion against last year’s $29.29 billion.

Underlying the decrease was lower spending in all segments during both time frames, as displayed in the gallery above. Silver lining is June’s lack of growth wasn’t as bad as March or May, when it shrunk 15% and 19% respectively.

Spending on Content (i.e. software, subscriptions, mobile and related areas) in June saw a similar 11% reduction, to $3.79 billion. During the first six months of 2022, Content spend declined 10% to $23 billion. Which means it comprised 87% of the monthly total and 88% of 2022 to date.

The bright spot here of subscription growth was bolstered by Sony’s PlayStation Plus rebranding attracting users to sign-up or upgrade existing plans. It displays the importance of subscriptions like this and Xbox Game Pass in propping up lulls in mobile and other content offerings.

Last month, mobile decreased nearly 11% which actually improved from the 13% dip in May. Google Play is driving this sub-segment downward, while App Store spending actually rose slightly for the first time since back in February. Very slightly, at 0.16%. Hey, it’s still growth!

This contraction in mobile is backed up by a recent report from Sensor Tower, a tracking firm that collaborates with The NPD Group for these monthly data drops, that global spending on mobile is trending down 7% so far.

Premium title activity picked up in June with some new arrivals. Still, the highest positions were occupied by familiar faces.

Namely Elden Ring, which continues its phenomenal first few months. It topped June’s overall software list, meaning it’s led every month since release except for April. The Bandai Namco-published game continues as best-seller for both 2022 and the latest 12-month period. The legs on this game are ridiculous. It’s maiden them a lot of money!

After Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga in second, we see the Switch in full effect. Mario Strikers Battle League kicked off its placing in 3rd during its initial month on sale, and led the Switch platform list. In fact, Nintendo published 4 of the Top 8 best-sellers on June’s combined list as recent titles like Nintendo Switch Sports and Kirby and the Forgotten Land stuck around. And might have been higher if Nintendo included digital sales.

A number of June releases settled outside the Top 10. F1 22, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, Sonic Origins and The Quarry all started in this range.

Then there’s a couple legacy titles re-entering the Top 10 as Overwatch captured the 5th slot and Final Fantasy 7 Remake grabbed #9, impacted by sequel news for both franchises. These worked to push Call of Duty: Vanguard out of the Top 10, a rare sight for the series published by Activision Blizzard whose top executives fostered an environment of misconduct and harassment for years yet still haven’t been punished for it. (They probably never will.)

“In my opinion, it’s the lack of compelling new content that is holding back premium sales right now,” said The NPD Group’s Mat Piscatella on Twitter. “New games that reach market are doing very well, there are just fewer of them. We also had the PlayStation Plus relaunch in June, which gave a nice kick to overall subscription spend in the month.”

As for the 2022 overall chart, there was no movement within the Top 10. Elden Ring, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga and Pokémon Legends: Arceus continue as the year’s biggest commercial successes.

See below for a full rundown of June and 2022 software rankings.

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

  1. Elden Ring
  2. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  3. Mario Strikers Battle League*
  4. MLB The Show 22^
  5. Overwatch
  6. Mario Kart 8*
  7. Nintendo Switch Sports*
  8. Kirby and the Forgotten Land*
  9. Final Fantasy 7: Remake
  10. Minecraft
  11. Call of Duty: Vanguard
  12. F1 22
  13. Monster Hunter Rise
  14. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: The Hinokami Chronicles
  15. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  16. Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes*
  17. Sonic Origins
  18. Pokémon Legends: Arceus*
  19. The Quarry*
  20. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Top-Selling Games of 1st Half of 2022, 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. MLB The Show 22^
  6. Call of Duty: Vanguard
  7. Gran Turismo 7
  8. Kirby and the Forgotten Land*
  9. Mario Kart 8*
  10. Madden NFL 22
  11. Nintendo Switch Sports*
  12. Minecraft
  13. FIFA 22
  14. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  15. Monster Hunter Rise
  16. Animal Crossing: New Horizons*
  17. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  18. Mario Party Superstars*
  19. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
  20. Dying Light 2: Stay Human*

As for the category with the best year-on-year performance in June, or should I say the least severe decline, Hardware moved down 8% to $371 million. That means first half of 2022 spending on consoles totaled $2.13 billion, or 9% lower than last year’s result of $2.36 billion.

We’ve talked supply to death, and that’s certainly the driver here in addition to some other points I mentioned earlier. There is some good news, in particular for Sony, in that inventories are popping up here and there on both manufacturer storefronts and retailer shops alike. Nintendo Switch availability looks consistent as well.

Sony’s increased production led to PlayStation 5 taking the lead on dollar sales in June as it benefited from a double-digit spending increase. While a month doesn’t make a trend, this sort of data point is positive in this environment. And we’ll certainly take what we can get these days. For the month, Nintendo Switch came in second place by revenue.

Increased availability bumped Sony’s current generation box to win the first half of 2022 by dollar sales. Microsoft’s Xbox Series X|S family, which was leading up until last month, is currently the runner-up.

When using unit sales as the benchmark, Nintendo Switch won June followed by PlayStation 5. Switch also leads units for the year to date, with Xbox Series X|S next up.

Got all that? Hah. I know it’s a lot to sort out when looking at hardware from these multiple angles. I wrote last month that the data points to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S being very close when using revenue as the indicator, which is supported by Sony taking home June and moving into pole position for 2022. I’d imagine the gap is quite minimal in the scheme of things, and can turn based on whose supplies are producing more because both of these have premium price points.

Switch is consistently competing on units, though generating less revenue than its counterparts which is the logical outcome. It, like PlayStation really, also relies on major first-party titles more because they aren’t available anywhere else. Much less so than Xbox Series X|S which continues Microsoft’s mission of subscriptions and services.

Pushing into Accessories, this felt the worst hit of lower discretionary income and normalizing of buying on the consumer side as it experienced the worst declines of the three major categories.

Spending here on game pads, headphones and similar peripherals lowered 15% in June to $176 million. It saw a 14% decline during the year’s first half, totaling just over $1 billion compared to $1.22 billion during 2021 H1.

After Sony’s DualShock 4 led at least a couple months, the current generation PlayStation 5 DualSense is back as the month’s top-seller. This time, it’s the Midnight Black iteration of the DualSense that took home first place.

Expanding further, Microsoft’s Xbox Elite Series 2 Wireless Controller continued as the best-selling accessory of 2022 currently. Which has been the case most of the year because of the higher relative cost per unit.

The domestic games industry bounced back a bit in June after a two-year spending low in May, showing occasional bright spots in areas like subscriptions, newer premium titles and a current hardware cycle that’s fighting the best it can against supply push-back.

Subscription spending is showing strength. Elden Ring can’t be stopped and five new games on the overall chart are propping up Content amidst softening areas like mobile. Even if the new games aren’t the biggest of commercial hits.

It does feel like the market is yearning for massive new AAA titles in this year of so many game delays, a sentiment echoed by Piscatella’s earlier comments. Game development is difficult in any environment, and teams are still adjusting to the new normal of hybrid working. Not to mention there are still coronavirus variants impacting many countries, plus people are contracting the virus for the second time. It’s a precarious situation, and I give developers credit for hanging in there right now.

Considering this, the calendar is now shaping up for the back half of 2022.

PlayStation seemingly locked in The Last of Us Part 1 remake for September plus God of War Ragnarök for its early November slot. Ubisoft’s collabo with Nintendo in Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is October, while the French publisher’s Skull and Bones is slated for November as well. Nintendo has Splatoon 3, Bayonetta 3 and Pokémon re-imaginings all before the holiday season. Gotham Knights, Saints Row reboot and, of course, the second Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 have been positioned later in the year for a while now.

Before then, July is going to continue as a mostly dry summer month on the premium side. F1 22 will have a full month of sales on record. Stray is an intriguing indie title from Annapurrrrrna Interactive (had to do it), also hitting PlayStation Plus simultaneously next week. As Dusk Falls is a narrative adventure and Xbox console exclusive. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 is out soon on all major platforms, while Live a Live finally reaches the States via Switch. The month’s biggest drop is probably Xenoblade Chronicles 3 also on Switch, though it will only have two days in the period.

With this light of a schedule, I’ll stand behind Elden Ring as July’s top earner again. I can see Xenoblade establishing a Top 5 finish.

Within the Hardware segment, I’m upbeat on PlayStation 5 after its June performance and seeing more stock via anecdotes and retailers online. I think it takes the first month of 2022’s back half on revenue, while Switch stays atop the console charts on units.

July also brings the start of my favorite time of the quarter: earnings season! Before we reconvene for the next monthly NPD sales report, I’ll have articles covering the earnings calendar and major company results.

In the meantime, shout out to Piscatella’s thread on Twitter covering today’s report. I hope everyone has a great rest of the month, feel free to send a comment here or on social media. Be safe and well!

*Digital Sales Not Included, ^Xbox & Nintendo Switch Digital Sales Not Included

Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise noted.

Sources: GameDaily.Biz, The NPD Group, Venson Chou (Image Credit).

-Dom

May 2022 U.S. Games Industry Spend Falls to Lowest Monthly Total in Over Two Years Based on Latest NPD Group Report

Even if seasonal gaming announcements are heating up lately with Summer Game Fest and the Xbox & Bethesda showcase, consumer spending here in the States is cooling off. Considerably.

That’s according to the latest monthly U.S. video game sales report from tracking firm The NPD Group. While this made sense based on where we are in post-lockdown times, supply challenges on the hardware side plus a low number of new software titles, the impact on May’s result was greater-than-expected.

Total spending declined almost 20% last month to $3.68 billion. That’s the lowest monthly amount since the early parts of the pandemic back in February 2020. All major categories of Video Game Content, Hardware and Accessories experienced drops, the first two by double-digits.

This marks seven consecutive months of sales declines.

Now almost at the halfway mark, 2022 is proving to be an off year for big budget spending on games. I predicted more game delays due to the knock-on effect of making them in a pandemic, and that’s having a significant impact on spending even when publishers have more ongoing or evergreen titles than ever.

There’s the reversion towards normalized spending down from quarantine highs, weakness in mobile, lacking inventories for consoles and a dearth of AAA games. Plus, I believe rampant domestic inflation is clearly impacting discretionary spending. When a gallon of gas here jumps above 5 bucks and the Consumer Price Index rises at its fastest pace in four decades, people tend to spend less on entertainment.

The largest segment of Content dipped 19% in May, weighed down by a lower mobile contribution and no blockbuster releases. Evil Dead: The Game was the only debut among the Top *50* best-selling titles, starting at an impressive fourth place on the overall chart. Compare this to even as recently as March when five of the Top 10 were new to market.

Within Hardware, a category that declined 11% in May, Nintendo Switch continued its consistency this time as the top-selling box by both dollars spent and units purchased. Nintendo’s hybrid console is 2022’s best-seller by units, though Xbox Series X|S is still in pole position when measured by revenue. Notably bolstered by its premium price and occasionally better availability as of late.

“We have a very light new release slate, we have a return to experiential spending, and we have higher pricing in everyday spending categories like fuel, groceries, and dining,” NPD Group’s Mat Piscatella said to GameDaily. “Each of these factors may be playing a role in the declines we’re seeing right now.”

Even on an off month, we dig into the numbers. Because it’s fun! Read on for more.

United States Games Industry Sales (May 1st, 2022 – May 28th, 2022)

Across the full domestic market of games, consumers spent that $3.68 billion in May overall or 19% lower than a year prior. This leads to a year-to-date figure of almost $22 billion, which is down 10% from the $24.4 billion during the first five months of 2021.

It’s important to keep in mind the annual chart above showing movement in recent years, displaying the trajectory compared to pandemic months. During early months, 2022 was trending above those except for last year’s historic highs. Now, it’s reverting back towards where it was in mid-2019. It’s proving to be a challenging second quarter, no doubt exacerbated by software delays out of this period and publishers still feeling the effect of remote working.

The largest category of Content covers mobile, software and various additional add-on purchases. It experienced the same 19% dip in May, falling to $3.33 billion from over $4.13 billion due to downward mobile pressure and softness in premium. It made up 91% of the total during both time frames.

Expanding to the current annual figure, Content has generated $19.3 billion in sales through May which is down 10% year-on-year from $21.45 billion.

Focusing on mobile first as the segment’s primary indicator, this is at least the third straight month of declines. Google Play revenue in particular is having a rough go, dipping 23% in May, while Apple’s App Store lowered less than 3%. At least the Top 10 sellers rose in contribution, adding 1% to the total. So there’s some silver lining in the current cloud of dreariness.

Elden Ring regained the top spot on the premium best-sellers list for May, boosted by topping Xbox and Steam platform charts, flipping spots with Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga which moved to second place. This means FromSoftware’s Elden Ring has led each month since its launch except one. It’s still the best-selling title during both 2022 and the latest trailing 12-month period.

As I alluded to before, Evil Dead: The Game was the sole new title to chart, ranking fourth overall. It snatched up third place on both PlayStation and Xbox individual lists. Publisher Saber Interactive’s parent company Embracer Group said recently the title accumulated over 500K units sold during its first five days on market, echoing its early success here.

Otherwise, it’s admittedly somewhat of a snooze-fest amidst this pre-summer lull. Even without digital, Nintendo Switch Sports and Kirby and the Forgotten Land both moved up a couple spots to #3 and #6, respectively. There’s now three Call of Duty titles in the Top 20 as publisher Activision Blizzard tried to pump up interest by revealing trailers for second Modern Warfare 2. Keep in mind this is the publisher that Microsoft is acquiring and has a management team, led by a CEO in Bobby Kotick who still hasn’t lost his job, that fostered sexual harassment and mistreatment of marginalized groups for years.

Then there’s the games that just don’t quit. People are, somehow, still buying enough copies of Minecraft every month to keep it around the Top 10, this time holding ground at #11. And I assume in light of hype around Bethesda’s upcoming space odyssey Starfield maybe combined with discounting, folks are picking up The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim enough to land it back in the Top 20 for the first time in almost five years.

Checking out the 2022 to date chart, it’s virtually the same as April. Elden Ring, Call of Duty: Vanguard plus Madden NFL 22 make up the Top 3. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga edges up into the Top 3, and of course Mario Kart 8 re-enters the Top 10.

Here’s a full look at the May and 2022 premium software lists.

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

  1. Elden Ring
  2. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  3. Nintendo Switch Sports*
  4. Evil Dead: The Game
  5. MLB: The Show 22^
  6. Kirby and the Forgotten Land*
  7. Call of Duty: Vanguard
  8. Mario Kart 8*
  9. Gran Turismo 7
  10. Pokémon Legends: Arceus*
  11. Minecraft
  12. Horizon Forbidden West
  13. Animal Crossing: New Horizons*
  14. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  15. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
  16. FIFA 22
  17. Mario Party Superstars*
  18. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl*
  19. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2019
  20. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

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. MLB The Show 22^
  6. Call of Duty: Vanguard
  7. Gran Turismo 7
  8. Kirby and the Forgotten Land*
  9. Mario Kart 8*
  10. Madden NFL 22
  11. FIFA 22
  12. Minecraft
  13. Nintendo Switch Sports*
  14. Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales
  15. Monster Hunter Rise
  16. Dying Light 2: Stay Human*
  17. Animal Crossing: New Horizons*
  18. Mario Party Superstars*
  19. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
  20. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

Sales of Hardware moved in a similar direction as Content, though its drop wasn’t quite as severe. This category moved down 11% in May to $216 million. Which means annual sales to date are 9% lower than the same period last year, or $1.76 billion.

The story remains market inventory with current generation boxes, as manufacturers and their suppliers wrestle with higher costs and limited part availability. At this point in the cycle, even with a good comparable last year, spending should be stronger.

That said, Nintendo was able to maintain enough stock to lead May hardware results by both dollars and units. By my count, that’s three straight months now where it’s led by unit sales after April’s milestone of passing PlayStation 4 on the all-time best-sellers list in the States.

When taking the first five months of 2022 together, Nintendo Switch has the best result so far by units sold driven by a lower cost to buy on average. Xbox Series X|S is best by revenue, followed by Sony’s PlayStation 5. Which is an intriguing stat. The volume of Switch sales on the year hasn’t been enough to earn more than its peers. To me, that signals the Xbox and PlayStation families aren’t far behind on units. (We don’t know for sure as NPD Group doesn’t share more detailed figures publicly.)

In addition to the struggles of supply that have plagued the industry since at least late 2020, I’m curious if a lack of so-called “system-seller” titles is also contributing to hardware performance. This is traditionally a major reason for folks to upgrade to a new console like PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X|S, when they can find them, so it certainly doesn’t help in a slower part of the cycle.

“The industry needs more new games!” said Piscatella. “And the pressures that we’re seeing from other areas of the market, such as higher prices on everyday spending categories, and having more entertainment options available for folks, sure seem likely to be having an impact.”

While it’s the smallest segment by dollars, Accessories didn’t drop as much as its counterparts did last month. Sales here totaled $131 million, down 7%. However, a weak early portion of the year means it’s still experiencing the worst performance of 2022 as spending is off 15% through May to $743 million.

Intriguingly, last generation’s PlayStation DualShock 4 Wireless Controller Black again leads the monthly Accessories group, same as April. If people can’t find a PlayStation 5, they are playing its predecessor which benefits sales of corresponding game pads.

Even so, Microsoft’s Xbox Elite Series 2 Wireless Controller retains its position as the top seller of 2022 right now. That premium price is paying off.

I wrote last month that I expected a quiet one in May. That it was, and then some, with the lowest output in quite a long time.

Taking its report as a whole, it was an off month at the big budget level for sure. This tends to happen when there’s limited retail inventory, mobile drag, minimal major game releases and significant inflationary pressure impacting buying power.

“The market had been trending under pandemic highs,” said Piscatella. “But May 2022 brought a bigger dip, at least partially driven by the very light new release slate in the month.”

There’s also something I’ve been saying for a while that I think is overlooked: there’s a longer tail from the impact of shifting to hybrid and remote working. And it will continue in the near term, for years to come. I don’t think anyone should be surprised by delays, dry spells and lower spending on games this year.

On this subject briefly, there are also development studios in and around Russia suffering from the country’s invasion of Ukraine. In an especially heartfelt video this week, STALKER 2 developer GSC Game World shared a harrowing diary on how its team was transplanted. There are even employees fighting on the war’s front lines or supporting relief efforts. It’s a difficult yet important reminder of how the geopolitical landscape affects our beloved industry.

Going forward towards June, the good news for Content is there’s a couple notable titles. Nintendo’s Mario Strikers Battle League and Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes will both benefit from the Switch effect. Take-Two Interactive published The Quarry, a campy horror title that may be a cult favorite. There’s even something like Fall Guys hitting new platforms and Diablo Immortal on the mobile side, albeit with pretty rough users reviews with its questionable monetization model. Not to mention downloadable content for Cuphead, Monster Hunter Rise and Outriders among others.

The bad news is sales during June the past couple years has been abnormally high, so I still expect a retraction overall.

What about the winners for Content and Hardware? Well, Elden Ring has a legitimate chance of winning again because of its ridiculous legs. I’ll take a chance and say it’s the new entry from Mario Strikers.

Subsequently, betting on Nintendo Switch in hardware is probably the safest for June. If I can even describe it as “safe.” I’ll wager Xbox Series X|S continues as top dog by dollars for 2022.

Until then, I recommend reading Piscatella’s thread here for further details. Thanks for stopping by. Have a safe rest of the month!

*Digital Sales Not Included, ^Xbox & Nintendo Switch Digital Sales Not Included

Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise noted.

Sources: GameDaily.Biz, The NPD Group, Embracer Group.

-Dom

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga Leads U.S. Game Sales & Nintendo Switch Reaches New Milestone in April 2022 NPD Group Report

It feels like I just posted my March recap, and here’s April! Time flies when you’re having fun, or getting old.

Existential dread aside, this morning The NPD Group was back with its latest monthly games sales report documenting consumer trends in the United States. While folks are spending less on the games industry compared to last year, there’s still plenty of successes to highlight.

Total sales across Video Game Content, Hardware and Accessories categories dipped 8% during April, which means spending has lowered year-on-year for six consecutive months. This is also the second straight April month with lower sales after last year’s 2% decline. Hardware was the only category exhibiting growth, while Content and Accessories both experienced double-digit dips.

Within the largest category of Content, mobile saw worse-than-expected negative momentum mainly due to softness in Google Play activity. On the premium side, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga led the aggregate chart. It’s the first game to dethrone Elden Ring since February, which remained at the second spot just ahead of MLB The Show 22. As opposed to last month’s bevy of new games hitting the charts, April’s overall software list only featured two new entries.

Performance within the Hardware segment was split depending on the metric being used. Nintendo Switch topped April’s console sales when using units, a metric by which it’s also the year’s best-seller so far. Just like back in March. As a result of this consistency, Switch passed PlayStation 4 on the all-time best-selling home console list. It’s now in fourth place behind only PlayStation 2, Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s own Wii.

However when using dollar sales as the measure, PlayStation 5 took home the win in April. Sony was finally able to secure enough inventory to move up the ranks, though Xbox Series X|S is still 2022’s top-selling hardware by dollars right now.

“Despite a nice hardware bump, the market couldn’t get back to growth as content and accessories lagged,” said The NPD Group’s Mat Piscatella. “Perhaps we’ll see some benefit from that hardware lift next month. In any case, [the] market remains well above pre-pandemic baseline.”

Long-time readers know I like to maintain perspective when writing about monthly or even quarterly sales. Seeing a decline since prior year isn’t necessarily substantial news or a sky-is-falling scenario. The consecutive months on this negative trajectory are representative of a few things, then of course there’s those pockets of positivity for individual games and consoles.

First, quarantining bolstered sales substantially the past couple years. Easing restrictions and some semblance of normalcy means a certain level of reversion is expected. Then there’s retail supply, still hampered by a semiconductor shortage and manufacturing woes. Finally there’s the distressing and growing impact from inflation, which is painful for most folks and can hamstring discretionary purchasing decisions.

Keeping this context in mind, I’ll move into my complete analysis and a detailed rundown of April’s results.

United States Games Industry Sales (April 3rd, 2022 – April 30th, 2022)

As displayed in the above gallery, total consumer spending during April fell 8% to $4.34 billion. That means annual spend to date is also down 8%, to $18.26 billion.

I think the most telling graphic here is the line chart showing spending over time for each of the past four years. It gives clear context on pandemic impact and how the current level compares to earlier periods. For instance, until last month, each month of 2022 was trending above the corresponding one during these years except 2021. This past April’s spending is the lowest April has been in three years, but not by much.

The largest category of Content includes software, add-on, mobile and subscriptions. Spending here lowered 10% to $3.84 billion. That means it comprised more than 88% of April’s total.

The key driver within this part is mobile, which has been in a downward trajectory for months. Normally the report says when it exceeds $2 billion, and it didn’t this time. So I assume it’s below that threshold. Even so, select titles are showing strength which implies people are still playing, albeit spending at a lower clip. Candy Crush Saga, Roblox, Coin Master, Evony: The King’s Return and Royal Match were the top earners.

Moving into premium titles, the aforementioned Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga led the rankings overall and every single individual platform chart as well. Including Nintendo Switch, as it was the first third-party title to top that chart since Monster Hunter Rise in March of last year. This performance across platforms led to the adventure title from Warner Bros. achieving the single best launch month dollar sales for any Lego game in tracked history. It’s immediately the second best-selling title of 2022 at present, behind only Elden Ring.

Speaking of Elden Ring, it was number two on the overall chart in April. Into its third month on market and it’s already achieved an astonishing accomplishment: The open-world soulslike has now outsold November 2021’s Call of Duty: Vanguard in the U.S., making Elden Ring the top-selling premium game of the last 12 months. This is virtually unheard of in the States, where Activision Blizzard’s military shooter perennially dominates sales charts. It’s a combination of relative weakness in Call of Duty lately and the stunning quality of FromSoftware’s latest masterpiece, which reached 13.4 million units globally in March according to publisher Bandai Namco. It’s even more by now, the true definition of a sales giant.

After an early access period led MLB The Show 22 to #4 in March, it advanced up to the third spot in April and moved up to 5th on the year’s best-sellers list after debuting outside the Top 10. While this performance isn’t as high as last year’s entry, which led its initial month, it’s still a quality showing. Intriguingly, it didn’t appear in the Top 10 on Xbox yet from an engagement standpoint, Xbox is its leading platform by player count. It’s a clear display of the Xbox Game Pass effect, as this year’s title was again available on the service at launch. It’s also worth noting this report doesn’t include digital sales from Xbox for this particular title, which of course impacts platform ranks.

The last new release on the overall chart was Nintendo Switch Sports, which really had only two days on sale during this time period. It still scored an impressive fifth place on the overall chart. Within the Nintendo list individually, it ranked third behind Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga and Kirby and the Forgotten Land. It’s another title, like all of those published by Nintendo, that doesn’t account for digital downloads. May’s result will give a better indication, as I expect it to be quite successful.

That covers the new releases, and most other movement on the charts featured familiar names from the prior month. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is holding strong, as is Horizon Forbidden West. Then there’s Mario Kart 8 which will never, ever stop selling. Most of the year’s Top 10 is the same save for the entry of Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga. Check below for a full look at April’s ranks plus 2022 so far.

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

  1. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  2. Elden Ring
  3. MLB The Show 22^
  4. Kirby and the Forgotten Land*
  5. Nintendo Switch Sports*
  6. Call of Duty: Vanguard
  7. Horizon Forbidden West
  8. Mario Kart 8*
  9. Gran Turismo 7
  10. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  11. Minecraft
  12. FIFA 22
  13. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
  14. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  15. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  16. Animal Crossing: New Horizons*
  17. WWE 2K22*
  18. Mario Party Superstars*
  19. Madden NFL 22
  20. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands*

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. MLB The Show 22^
  6. Gran Turismo 7
  7. Call of Duty: Vanguard*
  8. Kirby and the Forgotten Land
  9. Madden NFL 22
  10. Mario Kart 8*
  11. FIFA 22
  12. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  13. Minecraft
  14. Dying Light 2: Stay Human*
  15. Monster Hunter Rise
  16. Mario Party Superstars*
  17. Animal Crossing: New Horizons*
  18. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  19. WWE 2K22*
  20. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

Hardware was the main bright spot of April from a growth standpoint, boosting up 16% since last year to $343 million. Even so, it’s still down for the first four months of the year in aggregate. Sales of consoles year-to-date reached $1.54 billion, or 9% lower than the same period in 2021.

This April figure is somewhat reassuring, considering spending on this segment declined 30% this time last year. It indicates better availability, at least for certain platforms as The NPD Group called out PlayStation and Xbox increasing supply. This year has been a wild one for hardware; a different console has led each of the first three months. Demand is thriving, so consumers are buying whenever inventories pop up. Something like the Xbox Series S in particular is proving attractive because of its price point.

Still, it was actually the PlayStation 5 that showed up in April. Sony’s massive new console led last month on dollars generated as more stock hit shelves, a similar story as other regions including Europe based on data from local providers. Other than January, which was the last time PlayStation 5 topped the list, it’s been a somewhat dry year for Sony and its supply chain. As I wrote just this week, the company announced the platform passed 19.3 million units shipped globally and is now lagging its predecessor considerably.

Not to be overlooked, Nintendo Switch was April’s best seller by units. It’s the same for 2022 to date as Nintendo’s hybrid console continues to attract interest going into its sixth year on sale. In the States, lifetime Switch sales have now outpaced PlayStation 4 to become the fourth best-selling home console of all time. PlayStation 2, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii, in that order, are the only home platforms with more units sold domestically.

Xbox Series X|S rounds out this category as it secured second place during April by both dollar and unit sales. Similar to March, Microsoft’s family of devices is currently the year’s best seller by dollar sales. Microsoft has been most consistent on the production side, plus of course benefits from higher average revenue per unit for the premium Xbox Series X model.

I know that’s a lot to digest for hardware, since the report includes multiple metrics. Suffice to say there are at least minor indications of greater supply popping up, however it’s not yet a trend until it keeps happening. We still need to closely monitor the semiconductor shortage and input costs to see if it becomes an upward trend in overall supply movement, rather than one-off monthly spikes.

The third and final category of Accessories unfortunately didn’t track alongside hardware in April, instead showing some weakness compared to a year back. Monthly spending here fell 10% to $151 million. It’s currently the only segment in a double-digit decline for the year as a whole, moving down 15% to $743 million.

In a shocking upset, the PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 Wireless controller in black was April’s best-selling accessory. You read that correctly. That’s last generation’s PlayStation game pad leading a month in the second year of this current console cycle. Perhaps there were discounts leading to this upside? Though this report is mostly based on dollar sales, so there has to be some sort of advantageous average selling price for Sony in order for it to win.

I can’t remember the last time a PlayStation 4 game pad led the category.

Expanding a bit, the Xbox Elite Series 2 wireless controller, which has led all months except this past one, is still the best-selling accessory for the year right now. As it has all year, bolstered by its extravagant price tag.

Lately, it’s proving difficult for spending on games to keep pace with the highs of recent years. Especially early last year, which saw months of historic highs. Six months of monthly declines and we’re seeing this movement away from the ballooning amounts of spending during the pandemic due to restrictions of going out plus stimulus money at the time.

Softening is expected right now, even if it’s challenging to report on a downward trend. It’s just a matter of magnitude as spending normalizes, plus buyers face inflation pressure for essential goods which limits additional cash flow. There’s also the allure of spending on different types of entertainment as more people get out of the house in which they’ve been cooped for a while.

“We’ve also seen an extended run of months showing year-on-year declines,” Piscatella wrote. “[The] video game market is facing a return to experiential spending as well as higher prices in other areas of consumer spend. Tough combo. Will require the bigger games to really pull the market.”

On those AAA projects, the latest news cycle revealed how 2022 is shaping up to be another year of delays. Starfield. Redfall. Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League. The next The Legend of Zelda mainline entry. Stalker 2: Heart of Chernobyl is on hold due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And I’m not sold on God of War: Ragnarok hitting this calendar year, as I’ve said many a time on social media.

Focusing strictly on the potential for May’s monthly report, it’s a very light month for new software that isn’t a remake, re-release or indie launch. I’m expecting another month of spending declines, except perhaps for consoles. Evil Dead: The Game and Sniper Elite 5 are probably the highest profile releases on the calendar. I’m not sure the Top 10 will have any new entries, let alone the Top 5.

Which means it’s a major opportunity for carryover titles to promote new content or have events that keep players buying. This ties in with the subscription play, a staple in Microsoft’s suite of course and Sony’s strategy with its PlayStation Plus reworking starting in June. Games like MLB The Show 22 and Nintendo Switch Sports will have a lot more days on sale than last month. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga has a good chance at leading again, as does Elden Ring. I’m not the most upbeat on Call of Duty: Vanguard right now, but it will certainly secure a solid position.

My best guess is Elden Ring returns to number one. With the caveat that if Nintendo included digital, I’d probably bet on Nintendo Switch Sports.

As for Hardware, throw a dart at the wall and take a guess. Xbox Series X|S on dollars. Nintendo Switch again on units. Those are my dartboard guesses, at least.

Now that I’ve come to the end of this month’s coverage, I highly recommend perusing Piscatella’s Twitter thread for more details on platform rankings and additional commentary.

It’s been a supremely busy week for the games industry and business nerds. I’m both exhilarated and exhausted. I hope you enjoyed the articles, I plan to have more in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading. Until next time, be well!

*Digital Sales Not Included, ^Xbox Digital Sales Note Included

Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise noted.

Sources: Bandai Namco, The NPD Group, Warner Bros Interactive.

-Dom

Nintendo’s Annual Results Decline Slightly Amidst Hardware Shortages During The Company’s Best Year Ever for First Party Software Sales

Everyone that’s seen my latest earnings calendar knows the deal!

Nintendo is up next for this usual series of earnings recap and reaction articles for major gaming companies, this time focused on its annual results for the fiscal period ending March 2022.

While Switch hardware momentum slowed a bit, software is as strong as ever. In fact, stronger than ever.

As part of its report Tuesday, the Kyoto-based video game developer and publisher shared a variety of statistics around its yearly results. Software shipments from a units standpoint rose 2% last year. The firm even reported its highest level of first party software sell-through to consumers for a single platform.

And it’s had a lot of platforms since it entered the games business way back in the 1980s!

Its most recent in the Switch has been a commercial darling since launching in March 2022, spurring growth after the dark days of its failed Wii U console. While it didn’t see as much hardware success as fiscal 2021, it still achieved management’s latest shipment estimate plus had the second highest annual sell-through since it hit market outside of that first year.

Nintendo’s results, which saw dollar sales slow in the single digits and operating profit remain virtually the same, fits the industry theme of reverting to more normalized spending habits. Even if down from highs of last year, this was still its second best annual financial performance in more than a decade.

“Regarding Nintendo Switch, we will continue to convey the appeal of all three hardware models to maintain a high level of sales momentum and expand the install base,” the company wrote in its report. “Other software publishers also plan to release a wide variety of titles, and we will work to strengthen sales through the combination of existing popular titles and a continuous stream of new titles.”

Before moving into the full report, I want to highlight a recent article on Nintendo from friend of the site Kat Bailey at IGN. Entitled “Inside the Growing Discontent Behind Nintendo’s Fun Facade,” this investigative piece digs into the company’s culture and workplace conditions, notably its treatment of contract workers. It’s a rare peek behind the curtain, as relevant as ever considering how well the company is doing. Once you get done here, I highly recommend reading Kat’s fantastic coverage.

It’s time to dig into the nitty gritty.

On the financial side, Nintendo shared that net sales declined 3% to $15 billion. Operating profit lowered ever-so-slightly to almost $5.3 billion. Both of these were the second best amount respectively since fiscal 2010, came in above forecast and fit with the general theme of mean reversion.

These two metrics are displayed over time in the charts above, showing a slight contraction for both from highs a year back.

Splitting out by region, Americas was the leading contributor at 43%. That’s down slightly from 42% last year. Europe’s allocation remained consistent at 25% while Japan moved down from 23% to 21%. The remainder of countries outside these regions made up 10% of 2022’s total.

Nintendo shared insights into product category mix as well. Software sales contributed 52% of dedicated video game platform sales, while hardware made up the remaining 48%. That’s flip-flopped versus last year, when software was 47% and hardware comprised 53%. This shows the balance of Nintendo’s business exposure, plus a lean towards games in a time where console shipments lagged on the supply side.

Similar to my article on Microsoft’s latest financial report, here’s a rundown of how Nintendo stacks up to industry peers when it comes to the latest annual results. Tencent reports later this month, though most recently had an industry best $27 billion from gaming. Microsoft’s Xbox division posted $16.5 billion. Factoring the pending Activision Blizzard deal, it could be upwards of $23 billion to $24 billion depending on cost savings, etc. Unfortunately, both of these companies don’t break out profit from games. On the other hand, Sony also reported results today featuring $24.4 billion in revenue then $3 billion in operating profit. Thus, while Nintendo’s overall sales aren’t as much as these others, it’s currently more profitable than the PlayStation brand.

Digging into the aforementioned softening hardware sales, the Switch sold 4.11 million units during January to March which amounted to an annual total of 23.06 million. While that’s down 20% from the 28.83 million of fiscal 2021, it’s still the second best 12 months on record and exactly in-line with the company’s most recent guidance of 23 million. It’s worth noting this was revised downward twice from an original call of 25.5 million, signaling extended supply challenges.

Lifetime Switch console sales now stand at 107.65 million. An annual dip was expected given both the life cycle timing and global semiconductor shortage, it was just a question of how much. Tending to lean conservative, Nintendo’s initial guidance for the year ending March 2023 is an even lower amount of 21 million. That’s effectively returning to the amount of fiscal 2020, its third full year on sale.

Now that there’s three Switch models, Nintendo shares performance for all of them individually. The standard model is still the most popular of course, contributing 13.56 million to the year’s total. That’s down 33%, mainly due to the introduction of the OLED version which shipped 5.8 million boxes since hitting retail in October 2021. Finally, Switch Lite declined 57% to 3.7 million units in fiscal 2022.

Shifting into the Switch software category, Nintendo sold 235 million Switch games in the year ending March 2022. This is 2% higher than the almost 231 million of a year ago. First party games made up almost 80% of the platform’s annual software sales. Which essentially means 4 out of every 5 titles sold on Switch is published by Nintendo.

This sort of increased performance, happening as hardware sales slip, mainly proves how new and existing console owners keep buying games at a higher rate than even last year’s peaks. Which makes sense for a company known for its quality of output.

This annual growth led to lifetime software sales on the platform hitting 822.18 million. It was at 587.12 million back in March 2021.

Nintendo Switch ended fiscal 2022 with 39 “million-selling” titles during the fiscal year alone. This was at just 29 last quarter! For the year, 26 were published by Nintendo while 13 came from third-parties. Last year, Switch experienced 36 million-sellers: 22 from Nintendo, then 14 from external partners. A clear sign of catalog strength and what I call the “Switch Effect” on new titles in franchises normally considered as niche.

A couple headline releases during the latest quarter helped drive this consistency on the exclusive software side.

January’s Pokémon: Legends Arceus was the highest profile of the bunch, moving 12.64 million copies so far. That’s the third best start for a Pokémon game on Switch behind only 2019’s Pokémon Sword & Shield at 16 million and the nearly 14 million of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl last November. Truly an excellent beginning for Legends Arceus, which sold-through 11.4 million of those shipments, considering it’s a single release in a franchise that historically puts out two titles at a time.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land released towards the end of this period, rounding out the company’s first party slate for the fiscal year ending in March. It hit 2.65 million units shipped in those handful of days alone. Not only that, the cute 3D platformer sold-through over 2.1 million copies to buyers. This is undoubtedly the fastest-selling mainline Kirby in history; it will almost certainly pass the franchise’s best-seller of 1992’s Kirby’s Dream Land at 5.13 million last count.

Expanding to earlier catalog launches, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe naturally maintains the top spot on the all-time Switch best-sellers list. Bolstered by new downloadable content, the game originally out in 2013 shipped nearly 2 million in January to March alone! That pushes it above 45 million copies lifetime, 45.33 million to be exact, as one of only a few games ever to hit this milestone.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons moved an additional million copies in the quarter, no biggie, to continue as the second best-selling Switch title with 38.64 million to date. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate stays in third, selling 770K units to fight past 28.17 million in aggregate.

Since launching at that nearly 14 million copies mark in November 2021, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl extended to 14.65 million as of March. That makes it the 8th best-selling Switch game and 2nd best-selling Pokémon title on the hybrid platform. Exercise experience Ring Fit Adventure raced past the 14 million milestone to date, legging out an additional half million units and rounding out the Top 10 Switch best-sellers.

Speaking of milestones, Metroid Dread is already the top-selling Metroid game of all time. While it only shipped 160K units during January to March, combining that with the massive start last October puts it at 2.9 million copies or just above the 2.84 million of 2002’s Metroid Prime. Talk about having a ball!

Elsewhere, Mario Party Superstars shipped 1.45 million in the quarter, ending it at 6.88 million. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD pushed another milly, now at 4.22 million lifetime. Both of these contributed to that ever-expanding million-seller list for this past fiscal period.

Wrapping up various miscellaneous indicators and tidbits of information, Nintendo indicated digital dollar sales rose 4.5% to $320 million. Downloads accounted for 43% of software sales for the year, same as during 2021. Its digital contribution is lagging the wider industry standard, which has been around 50% or more depending on the publisher or manufacturer, however that’s always been the case for Nintendo. It’s much more reliant on traditional retail sales than others.

In a bit of bad news for analysts, Nintendo still doesn’t report many player engagement statistics. The company has made up this statistics dubbed “Annual Playing Users” which really just means the number of accounts that logged into a Switch during a given year. Last year, this figure reached 87 million. It recently achieved management’s goal of passing 100 million by March 2022, ending at 102 million.

You’ll notice this isn’t the most descriptive of metrics. It’s very much a parallel to the number of Switch hardware units out there. It doesn’t reveal too much. I’d much prefer to know more about monthly active users or revenue per user. Wishful thinking in this context.

Another area with a distinct lack of information was Nintendo Switch Online, the company’s somewhat rudimentary online offering. There’s no update on subscribers, a figure that hit 32 million back in September 2021. All management said was sales of add-on content for Animal Crossing: New Horizon and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe “grew” this past year.

With Nintendo, I’ll take what I can get.

As Nintendo closes the books on another year, it’s clear there’s currently limited downside on financial performance because it keeps fans purchasing software even when hardware is taking a hit from international semiconductor shortages, limited part availability and higher cost to produce consumer technology. This is the sixth fiscal year for Switch after all, as it will end the 2023 period just after celebrating its 7th birthday.

Looking ahead, the company’s forecast is conservative. I think rightfully so, even with a slate of anticipated titles in successful franchises.

In fact, the forward looking guidance is quite familiar. It’s literally the same exact numbers as last year. Nintendo expects revenue to decline 6% to $14.2 billion, while operating profit should dip 16% to $4.45 billion. As displayed by my earlier charts, these will still be healthy numbers in the perspective of the last decade or more.

“If COVID-19 interferes with production or transportation in the future, this might impact the supply of products. Other unpredictable risks to the development and marketing of products and services also continue to exist,” the company’s press release read. “In addition, the production of products might be affected by obstacles to the procurement of parts, such as the increase in global demand for semiconductor components. The consolidated earnings forecast is based on the premise that we will be able to secure the parts needed for the manufacture of products in line with our sales plans.”

Starting with that hardware guidance for the 12 months ending March 2023 of 21 million, I believe it’s a reasonable expectation. It would be down 2 million from the 23 million achieved this year. Right now, based on chipmaker leaders globally and experts saying shortages may last until even 2024, I’m targeting 20 million to 21 million Switch shipments in my models.

The elephant in the room is: What about new hardware? Will there be an update? Could the company produce yet another revision?

Well, Nintendo’s upper management has made a slight yet important tonal shift on that topic. As recently as last quarter, President Shuntaro Furukawa hinted how there’s no successor in sight because the current Switch is mid-way in its life cycle. Today, during a question and answer session after the earnings press release, he declined to even comment on Nintendo’s next hardware.

Personally, as has been the case for a while, I’m not a believer in a Switch Pro or even any upgrade until the successor which I expect to be a “Switch Part 2” with the same fundamental features and various improvements. I believe Nintendo’s strategy will lean on new releases, catalog software and online packs for at least the next two years. Supply conditions alone mean console generations will be longer than ever, so my current forecast is January to March 2024 for the company’s next hardware.

I’m much more upbeat on the software slate and monetary contribution from this business segment going forward, as Switch owners keep proving they want to buy games. Especially given Nintendo’s track record of mostly quality titles, then partnering with others to enhance its platform especially via independent games. From a unit standpoint during the year ending March 2023, it expects software sales to decline 11% to 210 million. I believe it will be higher.

So, what are the flagship upcoming games that will drive this resilience?

First, those with dates. Nintendo Switch Sports kicked off a couple weeks back. Mario Strikers Battle League and Fire Emblem Warriors Three Hopes are scheduled for June, while Xenoblade Chronicles 3 moved up to July. Splatoon 3 is the latest with an actual date attached, launching in September. These all seem locked in, I’d be surprised if they shift.

Pokémon Scarlet & Violet don’t have a date, but rather “Late 2022” as the window. I’ll assume November, and GameFreak will certainly hit that given the franchise’s usual cadence. Bayonetta 3 is much more in flux with a nebulous 2022 window. I’d be surprised if that doesn’t slip to calendar 2023.

In what’s currently the biggest pending Switch game, and the most annoying to write, The Sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was recently delayed to Spring 2023. Could that make this fiscal year? I’m betting March 2023.

Then there’s the curious case of Advanced Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, which was supposed to be out by now yet pushed back in light of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. That and Metroid Prime 4 are listed as “TBA” in Nintendo’s reporting. I expect the former might launch sooner than latter, while the latter won’t be for a while more and thus won’t contribute to the upcoming fiscal period.

There’s also how Shigeru Miyamoto told everyone on Twitter how the Mario movie was also delayed out of holiday season. Was the plan to have a counterpart mainline Mario release to coincide with the film’s marketing? If so, will that also be moved?

I’m wagering there’s definitely a surprise or two that no one knows about, except those working on them. I am betting on that new Mario title, likely 2D, plus a rejuvenated franchise that no one is expecting.

Well, that’s the rundown on Nintendo’s most recent fiscal year. It’s a lot to cover during an eventful time for the company. What stood out the most? Were you surprised by the results or any of its forecasts? What might management be hiding from us as part of its fiscal 2023 lineup? Is this the year it reveals the Switch’s successor?

I’m always available here and social media for discussion. Be well, and stay safe all!

Note: Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise mentioned. Exchange rate is based on reported conversion: US $1 to ¥112.34.

Sources: Company Investor Relations Websites, IGN, The NPD Group, Nikkei Asia (Image Credit).

-Dom

Xbox Hardware Market Share Gain Propels Microsoft Gaming Revenue to Best Non-Holiday Quarter in Company History

The ongoing Activision Blizzard deal isn’t the only thing making major headlines for Xbox lately.

Microsoft was the first of the “big three” console makers to report this earnings season, which I outline in my latest calendar post, this time sharing its fiscal year 2022 third quarter results covering the period between January and March.

During this time, gaming achieved its best non-holiday sales total ever. While certain parts of the industry cool off, Xbox is at least keeping the fire alive.

Driven by new generation hardware gaining market share plus growth in Xbox content and services, Microsoft generated $3.74 billion in quarterly revenue from gaming, up 6% since last year. That means Microsoft’s Xbox division secured its best revenue ever for a quarter that wasn’t October to December. The prior non-holiday record holder was $3.71 billion back in April to June 2021, a few months after the November 2020 launch of Xbox Series X|S.

This strength bolstered trailing annual sales to reach $16.5 billion for the first time since reporting began. That’s after a record holiday pushed it past $16 billion just last quarter as I wrote about then.

It’s even more impressive considering last year’s stricter pandemic restrictions leading to a strong comparable. According to its report, Xbox Content & Services moved up 4% while Xbox Hardware boosted 14%. Gaming as a whole rose due to growth in Xbox Game Pass subscriptions, first party software (like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5) and Xbox console hardware revenue growth. Third party content was really the sole area of weakness, exhibiting declines year-on-year. What this says is the ongoing Xbox ecosystem play is paying off, supplemented by better inventories at retail.

CEO Satya Nadella even provided a more macro view for hardware right now. “With our Xbox Series S and X consoles, we have taken share globally for two quarters in a row,” Nadella said on the company’s conference call. “We are the market leader this quarter among next gen consoles in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Western Europe.”

Based on supply driving the cycle due to a global semiconductor shortage, this sort of strength in hardware and market share implies Microsoft was able to secure more components than Sony producing its PlayStation 5. Note that Nintendo Switch was not a part of this statistic, since Nadella’s comments specifically cite the newest console generation.

While the numbers point mostly positive, I have to bring up the usual caveat that Microsoft unfortunately doesn’t share individual profit metrics for its Xbox division. That means purchasing those inputs to produce more retail units could very well have undercut profitability due to higher margins. I’ll shed more light on profit dynamics below the fold.

It’s now time to chart a course towards a more detailed analysis.

As the slides show, Microsoft’s gaming revenue increased 6% to that $3.74 billion during the quarter which was in-line with the company’s forecast. This quarterly result implies nearly $16.5 billion in trailing annual sales, an all-time high, shown via my chart in the above gallery. If combined with Activision Blizzard’s $8.3 billion annual sales and reduced by say $1 billion in double-counting and synergies, it would be between $23 billion to $24 billion.

To provide context, how does this latest top-line result compare to peers? I usually cite Tencent, Sony and Nintendo for these sections, all of which are reporting later in May so I’ll use the latest annualized figures for now. Tencent’s 2021 revenue exceeded $27 billion, maintaining its spot as largest gaming company in the world. Sony’s at $24 billion, suggesting its standing is probably just above Microsoft plus Activision Blizzard’s operations. Finally, Nintendo generated $15 billion.

The largest sub-segment for Microsoft’s gaming business was Xbox Content & Services, which improved a modest 4% to $3 billion in fiscal Q3. That means sales from Xbox Game Pass, software, cloud and any sort of add-on content via its digital storefront account for over 80% of quarterly gaming sales. This was just the second time ever it’s crossed the $3 billion threshold.

While Xbox Content & Services slightly missed the internal growth estimate of “mid to high single digits,” it’s still a success to grow versus a great result last year. I see it as a sign the Xbox brand strategy is stimulating a paying audience.

Disappointingly, Microsoft didn’t share an update on the exact number of Xbox Game Pass subscribers. The latest figure is 25 million from back in January. I’d imagine this was due to seasonality, where it picked up after the holiday and has grown only incrementally since then. Especially given a lack of major exclusives or even third party partnerships launching into the service other than Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six Extraction.

Instead, Microsoft highlighted new information specifically on cloud gaming usage. Nadella said 10 million people have streamed games remotely since the feature kicked off in beta during November 2019 then was formally introduced to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subs in September 2020. While cloud is still niche in the scheme of things, hitting this sort of milestone shows there’s at least some level of growing interest.

“Our Game Pass library now includes hundreds of titles across PC and console, including more games from third party publishers than ever before.” Nadella noted. “Billions of hours have been played by subscribers over the past 12 months, up 45 percent.”

Lastly, he said Azure gaming revenue increased 66% during the current fiscal year to date. These sorts of statistics on service, cloud, streaming and the like fit with the company’s gaming mantra of allowing people to play on various devices. It eases the burden on hardware shipments, which I’ll cover next.

The second sub-segment within gaming is Xbox Hardware, which exhibited the better growth during January to March. Sales here moved up 14% to $728 million. That’s the second best non-holiday result since the company began reporting splits. Microsoft didn’t previously share internal guidance for hardware, yet CFO Amy Hood said on the call that it exceeded expectations.

Company slides highlight continued demand for Xbox Series X|S underlying this change, however clearly it’s capped by supply conditions. Based on evidence from both regional tracking firms and retail channel checks, Xbox Series S in particular is showing better availability at least.

Of course, the question on everyone’s mind is: how many units of Xbox Series X|S has Microsoft shipped now during its fifth full quarter on market? Last quarter, I mentioned the estimate from Daniel Ahmad, Senior Analyst at Niko Partners, being above 12 million. While revenue growth doesn’t directly translate to unit sales trajectory, I’d guesstimate the family at upwards of 14 to 14.5 million globally. As a reference, last count for Sony’s PlayStation 5 was 17.3 million.

We’d know for sure if Microsoft was more transparent. (Wishful thinking!)

Fitting with the theme of market share gains and increased inventories was The NPD Group’s recent monthly report on U.S. games industry spending. As I covered in my article, Xbox Series X|S was the leading console for both March and the first quarter domestically by dollar sales. It’s certainly attracting buyers, when there’s stock on hand.

“Coming to the end of a good week,” wrote CEO of Gaming Phil Spencer on Twitter. “Microsoft earnings were a nice moment for Xbox, it’s always great to hear Amy [Hood] and Satya talk about the progress.”

Now, here’s yet another important caveat related to profitability. We don’t know if Microsoft is making a profit on either model right now. In fact, last year during the Epic v. Apple trial, Head of Xbox Development Lori Wright specifically said the firm sells hardware at a loss. Which is consistent with historical data and anecdotes across the industry, as consoles are known as a loss leader and a means to have people spend on software, and now subscriptions or other content.

Comparatively, Sony said it’s now turning a profit on each PlayStation 5 standard edition it ships. Without a better indication of cost impact, it’s difficult to make a direct comparison.

Stepping back to briefly touch on Microsoft’s general results, the company generated over $49 billion in quarterly sales which is 18% higher than last year. Operating income exceeded $20 billion, up 19%. Both top-line and earnings-per-share came in above analyst estimates.

Intelligent Cloud as a segment showed the most growth, jumping 24% in Q3. Microsoft Cloud revenue improved 32% to over $23 billion. Office Commercial products and cloud moved up 12%, while LinkedIn sales rose 34%.

Gaming is part of the More Personal Computing business for Microsoft, which rose 11% to $14.5 billion. This means Xbox comprised 26% of quarterly segment sales, down from 31% during the holiday quarter between October and December 2021.

In terms of a glimpse into profitability for this segment, gross margin percentage declined “slightly” last period. That’s because of a 17% increase in operating expenses, attributed to gaming, search, news advertising and Windows marketing costs.

Essentially, gaming is less profitable than other areas when investing heavily in console manufacturing and external deals. This also reflects the broader trend of inflation, impacting input pricing. The more it takes to make a product, the lower its margins. Right now, the implication is there’s higher cost in both producing consoles and making the types of deals required for Xbox Game Pass. Without exact data on how much profit is made per retail unit sold or for gaming as a whole, I have to make these kinds of inferences.

Considering gaming sales rose 50% this time last year, beating total growth estimates in the latest quarter was a great showing on the revenue side. That $3 billion figure for Xbox Content & Services in particular supports the brand’s reinvigorated move towards keeping players in a more accessible ecosystem as opposed to a singular piece of hardware. There are still indications that profitability is being hit by input availability and cost, so that’s worth keeping in mind especially moving into the second full calendar year of Xbox Series X|S.

Looking ahead, next time Microsoft will report fourth quarter and annual results for fiscal 2022.

When it comes to gaming, CFO Amy Hood laid out somewhat bearish internal guidance for April to June as the company anticipates lower sales, echoing a trend seen industry wide as a reversion towards more normalized spending habits.

“We expect revenue to decline in the mid-to-high single digits driven by lower engagement hours year-over-year as well as constrained console supply,” Hood said. “We expect Xbox Content & Services revenue to decline mid-single digits though engagement hours are expected to remain higher than pre-pandemic levels.”

Note: She didn’t provide formal guidance on hardware results.

Digging into that first estimate, let’s assume an 8% decline. This would lead to fourth quarter gaming revenue of $3.4 billion versus the prior amount of $3.7 billion. When aggregating for the full year, it would still be an increase from $15.4 billion to $16.2 billion. That implies we’ll see a fiscal year sales record for Xbox despite anticipated weakness in the final quarter.

Then, if Xbox Content & Services dips say 5%, it would generated $2.8 billion in the fourth quarter which would be the lowest result since the pandemic began.

We’ll have to see how it plays out for Xbox over a three month span where it’s going to reveal a lot more about future titles than actually launch many on the first party side. On June 12th, Xbox & Bethesda will host its annual summer showcase where I expect to see more about Starfield, Redfall, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, Avowed and hopefully the Indiana Jones project.

Thanks everyone for stopping by and making it this far. Be safe and well!

Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise noted.

Sources: Company Investor Relations Sites, The NPD Group, Xbox Wire, Yahoo Canada (Image Credit).

-Dom

Xbox Series X|S & Elden Ring Show Strength in March 2022 During Another Month of U.S. Game Sales Declines

That’s another first quarter in the books. Congratulations, all. You made it!

In celebration, industry tracking firm The NPD Group gave everyone an early present this week as its March U.S. games spending report was originally slated for release on Tuesday. It was a Monday surprise! I’m a bit late in covering it because WordPress Issues, but I’m here now and ready to rock. And since it’s a March month, that means we have a whole quarter of data to peruse.

Now, the headline seems drearier than it is. Yes, domestic consumer spending on video games declined in March, marking the fifth straight month of lower sales. All three categories saw double-digit dips. Do you remember where spending was at this time last year? All-time highs for a March month, that’s where.

According to this latest report, consumer spending across Video Game Content, Hardware and Accessories declined 15% in March to just under $4.9 billion. That’s down from a record-breaking March of $5.69 billion in 2021. Essentially, this past month was in-line with the first phase of the pandemic. To help with context in gaming, that’s when everyone was playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Everything in context!

While all categories moved down in March, the broadest of Content (software, mobile, add-ons, subscriptions etc) showed the most resilience down only 13%. This is partially due to a lower mobile contribution. Within premium software, the beast that is Elden Ring beat out a slew of new titles to snag its second straight monthly win atop the overall chart. Launches of Gran Turismo 7, Kirby and the Forgotten Land, MLB The Show 22, WWE 2K22 and Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin all sold well enough to be in the Top 10 last month.

Hardware as a segment experienced the most precipitous decline on a percentage basis, down 24%. Xbox Series X|S secured its spot as best-selling console of March measured by dollars. Why? Well, because it was more available to buy. Especially the entry level Series S design is popping up more frequently at retail. Not only was the family of devices the month’s top seller, it also generated the highest dollar sales of any console during the first quarter.

“Consumers [are] returning to experiential spending, and perhaps even pressures from higher prices in other areas, may now be impacting video games,” wrote The NPD Group’s Mat Piscatella on Twitter. “Continued supply constraints in hardware aren’t helping.”

Manufacturers and suppliers on the hardware side are doing as much as they can to produce as many boxes as possible, given those constraints. Though it’s still not enough to satiate demand at this stage. Software publishers are seeing the impact of more normalized, plus less discretionary, spending in this inflationary environment. Notably within mobile. So, a lack of growth isn’t a doomsday indicator. It’s more a reversion, dampened by higher prices for companies and individuals.

Moving into the fun stuff. The numbers, of course!

United States Games Industry Sales (February 27th, 2022 – April 2nd, 2022)

Beginning with the overall figure I referenced earlier, total consumer spending on the games industry declined 15% to $4.85 billion during March. When expanding to the first three months of 2022, it’s $13.92 billion or 8% lower than the corresponding period before.

I’ll cover Video Game Content first. During March, spend on Content dipped 13% to $4.11 billion. Which means this category currently makes up around 85% of monthly spending.

There’s clear downward pressure from mobile, which saw 12% lower spending last month than in March 2021. This includes a 25% decline in Google Play games revenue, whereas Apple’s App Store purchasing came down only slightly. Even considering this impact from March, mobile spending declined less than 10% for the quarter. Top earners for mobile in the month were Candy Crush Saga, Roblox, Coin Master, Garena Free Fire and Genshin Impact.

“U.S. mobile game spending continues to considerably outpace our pre-pandemic projections,” noted the report. “Although signs of the space cooling off as consumers return to in-person occupations and spend more time on other pursuits outside the home are showing.”

When it came to premium software, the story was new games hitting market before fiscal year end for many publishers. It was a busy month where seven of the Top 12 sellers on the combined chart were brand new games. Three of those were among the Top 5.

March’s best earner Elden Ring is technically not one of those new releases since it had all of two days in February’s report. Those alone propelled FromSoftware’s latest to first at the time. Now a double-digit sales increase during March helped it secure the win again. The soulslike open world was the highest seller on all its available platforms, it’s still the best-selling of 2022 to date and second to only Call of Duty: Vanguard over the last 12 months. The Tarnished may be “maidenless,” yet they are certainly makin’ more.

Finishing in second place during March was PlayStation exclusive Gran Turismo 7. The racing sim entry from Sony’s Polyphony Digital accelerated to the best launch month in Gran Turismo franchise history when measured by dollar sales. (I have a note out to NPD Group to confirm the prior record.) It’s also immediately fourth on 2022’s top sellers so far. As a quick comparison, its predecessor didn’t chart. With the caveat it was a holiday release in December 2013.

Quite literally rounding out the Top 3 was Kirby and the Forgotten Land. Keep in mind Nintendo doesn’t include digital portion for its Switch games. While NPD Group didn’t share much in the way of comparison to prior Kirby games, I would wager it had the best launch month ever. I ran some quick checks on rankings. Switch title Kirby Star Allies debuted at #4 in March 2018 while Nintendo 3DS entry Kirby: Planet Robobot didn’t hit the Top 10 during June 2016. When Nintendo reports its annual earnings in a couple weeks, I fully expect the Switch effect to boost Kirby and the Forgotten Land to fastest-selling in the franchise. Sorry if that was a mouthful!

Fourth place in March was the curious case of MLB The Show 22. I say that because looks can be deceiving. Last year’s entry was the top-selling of April 2021, setting an all-time franchise record after becoming a multi-platform release also available day one on Xbox Game Pass. Now, this year’s initial rank only accounts for certain special editions offering an early access phase. Next month’s report will tell the full story; I expect it to be a good one.

Wrapping up other new releases, 2K Games’ WWE 2K22 wrestled to #7 after taking a year off. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands and Ghostwire Tokyo secured 10th through 12th place respectively. Lastly, Triangle Strategy landed just outside the Top 15. Note some of these also have the “no digital” caveat. The list below has specifics.

My final observation on the software side from March is how four games outsold Call of Duty: Vanguard in the first quarter of 2022. It’s another indicator of lagging premium Call of Duty sales, echoed in this week’s quarterly financials from Activision Blizzard which I covered on social media.

Here goes the full software charts for March and Q1 2022.

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

  1. Elden Ring
  2. Gran Turismo 7
  3. Kirby and the Forgotten Land*
  4. MLB The Show 22#
  5. Horizon Forbidden West
  6. Pokémon Legends Arceus*
  7. WWE 2K22*
  8. Mario Kart 8*
  9. Call of Duty: Vanguard
  10. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  11. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands*
  12. Ghostwire Tokyo
  13. FIFA 22
  14. Minecraft
  15. Madden NFL 22
  16. Triangle Strategy*
  17. Mario Party Superstars*
  18. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  19. Animal Crossing: New Horizons*
  20. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Top-Selling Games of Q1 2022, U.S., All Platforms (Physical & Digital Dollar Sales):

  1. Elden Ring
  2. Pokémon Legends Arceus*
  3. Horizon Forbidden West
  4. Gran Turismo 7
  5. Call of Duty: Vanguard
  6. Madden NFL 22
  7. Kirby and the Forgotten Land*
  8. Mario Kart 8*
  9. Dying Light 2 Stay Human*
  10. FIFA 22
  11. MLB The Show 22#
  12. Monster Hunter Rise
  13. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  14. Minecraft
  15. Mario Party Superstars*
  16. God of War 2018
  17. Total War: Warhammer III
  18. Animal Crossing: New Horizons*
  19. WWE 2K22*
  20. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*

Shifting focus to Video Game Hardware, this segment saw $515 million in spending within March. That’s 24% lower than the record-breaking $680 million last year, which was the highest March hardware result since way back in 2008. You know, the time of the Nintendo Wii.

Again, context!

When looking at the first quarter, hardware sales dipped 15% to exactly $1.2 billion. It’s solid compared to last year’s highs, and not too shabby considering it was under $800 million back in Q1 2020 towards the end of last generation of course.

During March, Xbox Series X|S achieved that top-selling status within hardware using dollars generated as the metric. Microsoft’s current devices experienced the best March monthly sales in the tracked history of the Xbox brand, by both units and dollars spent. Prior to this, March 2011 and March 2014 were all-time bests for units and dollars, respectively.

This monthly win in March bolstered Xbox Series X|S to becoming the best-selling platform during the first three months of 2022.

It’s worth nothing that when accounting for units sold as the measure, Nintendo Switch led for March and Q1.

Want proof that whichever console maker can produce the most will win a given month? When using dollar sales, each month of 2022 so far has been led by a different platform. PlayStation 5 secured January, Nintendo Switch topped February and now Xbox Series X|S won out in March. This says, as much as anything, that supply is fluctuating month to month or even week to week. Whoever pushes the most inventory will likely be crowned victor. Temporarily, of course.

Still, it’s unclear that even with recent supply spurts, hardware output isn’t matching ongoing demand from consumers.

“Xbox had a big month due to having supply that could help meet some of the demand,” said Piscatella. “Supply [is] still an issue in hardware.”

The last category of March’s monthly report is Video Game Accessories. This paralleled almost perfectly with Hardware as consumer spending declined 23% to $227 million. This same month last year, the $300 million generated on accessories was a March record. Effectively, this particular segment is back to March 2020 levels.

When taking into account the first three months of 2022, sales on accessories moved down 16% to $592 million.

As it has all year, Microsoft’s Xbox Elite Series 2 controller was the heavy hitter. This top-end game pad was March’s best-selling accessory, making it the top seller for Q1 as well. There’s not much more color digging into this particular segment from March’s data.

As I alluded before, March spending declines aren’t doom and gloom. At all. It’s a natural movement back towards more normalized amounts, especially for something like mobile. There’s also the impact of rampant inflation causing more essential spending to take precedent for many households.

A monthly report like this really displays the impact of mobile within Content. First quarter premium releases are doing quite well at least alongside historical counterparts, illustrated by the likes of Elden Ring, Horizon Forbidden West, Pokémon Legends Arceus plus that wide swath of March launches stacking up the charts.

It sounds like a broken record, I know. Gaming hardware goes as inventories do, seeing as there are plenty of buyers when consoles do hit stores or online channels. The upside is clearly limited in the foreseeable future. Each moth a different platform shines, though Xbox did so brightly enough in March to push past the others when aggregating Q1.

Then, what about this month of April?

Well, it’s certainly not going to be as eventful as this report on the premium software side. There are fewer blockbuster games in April’s slate. Nintendo Switch Sports is a headliner that will be massive on Switch, even if it’s out very late in the month. I’m incredibly upbeat on Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga after Warner Bros. Games revealed it’s already shipped 3.2 million copies globally.

I expect various games from first quarter to compete in April, notably Elden Ring yet again and MLB The Show 22 after the strength of a full launch. I’ll predict here that Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga takes it home and Nintendo Switch Sports scores a Top 3 finish.

Hardware is, again, anyone’s guess. Personally, my best guess is Nintendo Switch on both dollars and units mainly due to that sports boost. Folks will be partying like granny and the fam playing Wii Sports bowling back in ’06!

We’ll have to wait and see. Until then, I recommend reading Piscatella’s thread for details directly form the source. Thanks for stopping by the site, be safe and well. Take care for now!

*Digital Sales Not Included, ^Xbox Digital Sales Note Included, #Includes on the MVP Edition and Digital Deluxe Edition

Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise noted.

Sources: The NPD Group, Newsweek (Image Credit), NY Times (Image Credit), Warner Bros. Games.

-Dom

Elden Ring’s Huge February 2022 Debut Isn’t Enough to Offset Fourth Straight Month of Declines for U.S. Game Sales

Everyone truly is playing Elden Ring, it seems. At least that’s what the data says!

Still, despite FromSoftware’s latest masterpiece plus a variety of major releases, consumer spending on the U.S. games market declined during February 2022 according to the latest report from The NPD Group. That’s the fourth straight month of lower sales, attributed to supply pressure on the hardware front and slowing mobile momentum in the content segment.

Total consumer spending dipped 6% to $4.4 billion during February. Which checks out and really isn’t as bad as it sounds, considering this same period last year achieved a record result for a February month. A single-digit decline from all-time highs is quite a solid showing in the current environment of uncertainty.

The Video Game Content segment fell 4% since last year. This includes lower mobile spending, the first time mobile device spend has declined in a February since the pandemic started in 2020. There were a slew of newer premium titles charting like the aforementioned Elden Ring alongside Horizon Forbidden West, Dying Light 2 Stay Human and Total War: Warhammer III which all shared the Top 5 with January’s major launch in Pokémon Legends Arceus.

Nintendo Switch returned to its place as top earner within Video Game Hardware, the category with the most pronounced decline in February of nearly 30% year-on-year. Clearly semiconductor shortages and elevated input costs were a factor, which they will be this year and likely even further in to the future.

Content often goes as mobile and premium titles do, so seeing a dip means spending on recent launches couldn’t outpace mobile’s contribution. When it comes to hardware, and to an extent Video Game Accessories as the third major segment, inventory and availability is dictating results and who leads from report to report.

Not only were monthly sales lower than last February, the number for year-to-date is presently trending downward after January followed a similar decline. For the first couple months of the year, consumer spend reached $9.1 billion or 4% lower than the same time frame in 2021.

“Definitely seeing signs of a move away from the pandemic-fueled gaming surge that had been a part of the market since April 2020,” wrote The NPD Group’s Mat Piscatella on Twitter. “[The] question is where things settle in, and how many of the players added over the past 2 years stick around, and how engagement hours/spend change.”

Before I dive deep into the numbers, I want to say I stand with the people of Ukraine in their fight against Russia’s attempted takeover of their country and freedom. Everyone who has been displaced is in my thoughts. If you are interested in donating to relief efforts, here is a pretty robust list of charities.

Also, I hope everyone is safe and well as you start to return to workplaces, conferences and more in-person events. Even if it’s a small semblance of normalcy, it’s a welcome change. You’ll always have these recaps to keep you occupied whether at home or out and about!

It’s time to talk shop. Bring on the charts and figures.

United States Games Industry Sales (January 30th, 2022 – February 26th, 2022)

As I alluded earlier, The NPD Group reported February gaming sales in the States totaled $4.384 billion which is down 6% since last year’s (record) $4.671 billion. This was dragged down the most by hardware, though the other categories also saw notable declines.

Expanding to 2022 so far, total spending reached nearly $9.1 billion. That’s 4% lower than the first two months of last year. It’s a situation many of us expected, given the surge of domestic spending on games we’ve seen over recent history.

Video Game Content contributed 89% of all games industry spending in February, or $3.9 billion in dollar value which represents a 4% decline. Looking at this same category over the year to date, it’s at $8 billion and that’s also 4% off its 2021 highs. Leading all mobile titles by revenue were Candy Crush Saga, Roblox, Coin Master, Genshin Impact and Pokémon GO.

I mentioned briefly how mobile momentum is slowing. This sub-segment dipped almost 3% during February, the first February decline in a couple years. I’d say this is natural given where we are with things slowly opening back up, though I expect it to continue leading the Content category as people have access to mobile devices wherever they go.

When it comes to premium titles, Elden Ring earned the crown for both February and 2022 to date. Bandai Namco and FromSoftware’s latest open world action role-playing game is having the biggest launch in the developer’s storied history. For this domestic report, it had the best start of any game in the past year besides the behemoth that was Call of Duty: Vanguard. It’s already the 5th best-selling title of the last 12 months. And with just two days on sale during this period! Incredible.

Expanding globally, the companies announced just last night how the soulslike sold a staggering 12 million units worldwide since late February. I was way bullish on Elden Ring as one of the most anticipated titles ever across the industry. But I don’t know if anyone expected this, as it’s officially turned into much more of a mainstream success. And has done anything but Tarnish the developer’s rep. (Those playing will know!)

Second place in the month went to another open world title in Horizon Forbidden West, the sequel to 2017’s robo-dinosaur hunt Horizon Zero Dawn. The PlayStation 5 version of this exclusive made by Guerilla Games set a brand new first month record for titles on PlayStation 5 when measured by dollar sales, I believe outpacing Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. It’s also the 3rd best-seller of 2022 right now. The original game hit upwards of 20 million copies lifetime, and I’m way optimistic on the prospects here over time. Even if it continues the trend of launching around an all-time great: Elden Ring now and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild previously.

January’s best-selling game Pokémon Legends Arceus captured the third spot in February, now with a number of weeks on market. Those there pocket monsters selling well, what else is new? Then, Techland’s Dying Light 2 Stay Human fought to #4, which is down compared to the original game that led the January 2015 monthly ranks. Still, it was enough for the zombie parkour experience to reach 6th for year-to-date. It’s worth noting both Pokémon and Dying Light 2 Stay Human do not include digital downloads. I don’t expect that would have made a difference for the latter. Maybe for the former.

Finishing up the Top 5 is Total War: Warhammer III mainly due to its strong PC push and Xbox Game Pass word-of-mouth boost. The strategy tactics game is also currently #8 on 2022’s list. I couldn’t find its predecessor anywhere on the chart during its September 2017 start, though I’m not sure if this is a record for the sub-franchise within the broader Total War saga.

All other games within February’s Top 20 were releases from prior months or even years. One that stood out to me was Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition, taking the 16th spot overall. That’s up from 57th in January. The now infamous remastered version of three Grand Theft Auto games seemed to have a boost in February at retail, since Take-Two Interactive is another publisher that excludes digital.

See below for premium software rankings for both February 2022 and the year so far.

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

  1. Elden Ring
  2. Horizon Forbidden West
  3. Pokémon Legends Arceus*
  4. Dying Light 2: Stay Human*
  5. Total War: Warhammer III
  6. Call of Duty: Vanguard
  7. Madden NFL 22
  8. Mario Kart 8*
  9. FIFA 22
  10. Minecraft
  11. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  12. Mario Party Superstars*
  13. Animal Crossing: New Horizons*
  14. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  15. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
  16. Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition*
  17. NBA 2K22*
  18. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl*
  19. Far Cry 6
  20. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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

  1. Elden Ring
  2. Pokémon Legends Arceus*
  3. Horizon Forbidden West
  4. Call of Duty: Vanguard
  5. Madden NFL 22
  6. Dying Light 2: Stay Human*
  7. Monster Hunter Rise
  8. Total War: Warhammer III
  9. God of War (2018)
  10. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  11. Mario Kart 8*
  12. FIFA 22
  13. Minecraft
  14. Mario Party Superstars*
  15. Animal Crossing: New Horizons*
  16. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl*
  17. Far Cry 6
  18. NBA 2K22*
  19. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  20. Battlefield 2042

Last month, Video Game Hardware saw the most precipitous dip of the three primary categories as it declined 27% to $295 million. For perspective, console spend was above $400 million back in February 2021. The decline for 2022 so far is less severe, down 5% in the first two months to $685 million in aggregate. It certainly reiterates how difficult it is to find hardware, especially the top-end PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

After PlayStation 5 took home January, Nintendo Switch was back as the leading platform by both dollars and units during February 2022. Microsoft’s Xbox Series X|S family of consoles secured the second spot, benefiting from the dual SKU approach since the entry level Xbox Series S is easier to find lately.

This flip-flopping of monthly winners on the console side is going to continue, because it’s all about who can come up with the most stock for a given time frame. Nintendo had a blow out holiday and inventories for Switch seem to be bouncing back after a slow January. Xbox Series S could push Microsoft to a win here and there. I’m still mostly impressed with Nintendo Switch entering its sixth year and still consistently putting up the best stats.

When taking the first two months of 2022 into account, it’s PlayStation 5 that leads all hardware by revenue however Nintendo Switch tops on unit sales. PlayStation 5’s strong post-holiday month was enough to hold off its competitors for the time being on dollar sales, benefiting from that premium price tag.

Really it’s just a matter of how long the supply situation lasts, and which company can secure its pipeline enough to keep consistent product on shelves. Nintendo held that title for February in a down month for domestic hardware spend overall, signaling we still have a long way to go in the everlasting semiconductor shortage.

Similar to its counterparts, the final segment of Video Game Accessories cooled during the month of February. Spending here was 7% lower than February 2021, reaching $180 million. It’s also the only category with a double-digit decline for 2022 to date, off 11% to $365 million.

This again isn’t as bad as it sounds because of where it was last year. At that time, various sub-categories within accessories saw their best February on record. That included Game Pads, Headset/Headphone and Steering Wheels. It’s tough to keep up to the best ever, especially when console sales aren’t picking up.

Out of all accessories sold, Microsoft’s Xbox Elite Series 2 controller topped the month. It’s also the best-selling accessory of 2022 at present.

One thing to keep an eye on here is the pace at which accessory spend is declining is currently worse than hardware. Another bystander of supply, and that’s even more pronounced when people aren’t purchasing many new consoles.

In certain recent reports, The NPD Group has shared some insights into virtual reality which is included in the accessories portion. I didn’t see any this time, likely because that’s more of a story during the holiday season or major product launches.

After a slower than usual start to the year, February welcomed a number of new premium games to market. It was a busy time for gamers looking to spend wisely because of just how many hit within weeks of one another. The biggest of those in Elden Ring is having a historic start, while others are certainly doing well in their own rights especially the Horizon and Total War series.

The unfortunate part is many of those same people also want to buy a fancy new console, yet probably can’t at legitimate retail. Nintendo was able to restock well in February, plus Microsoft’s Xbox Series S is propping up that particular family even if it doesn’t generate as many dollars because of its more affordable pricing. There’s certainly demand that’s going unfulfilled.

Even so, seeing single-digit declines from a record high February 2021 isn’t that concerning. In the context of recent years and even going back further, spending on the games industry is healthy.

“The last two years of significant growth have introduced gaming to new and returning audiences, have expanded the ways people engage with gaming, and have solidified gaming as a social gathering place for family & friends,” Piscatella said.

Shifting focus towards March, the last month of first quarter, and we see an equally busy calendar though I would argue less upside on the triple-A segment and spending as a whole. Square Enix boasts a number of titles: Babylon’s Fall, Triangle Strategy and Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin and I’m hesitant on all of them.

PlayStation’s flagship racing sim Gran Turismo 7 launched a couple weeks back, and has a legitimate chance at a Top 3 finish. Take-Two Interactive sports a heavy load: WWE 2K22, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands plus yet another version of Grand Theft Auto V, this time for the current console generation.

Nintendo’s big game of the mouth, I mean month, is Kirby and the Forgotten Land. Plus the publisher has downloadable content for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, both of which will perform well. I expect Kirby in particular to set records within the franchise, benefiting greatly from that Switch Effect.

For my quick set of predictions, I’m actually leaning towards Elden Ring repeating in March based on the number of weeks on sale plus its momentum isn’t going anywhere. I’m thinking Kirby secures Top 4 position, while Mario Kart 8 should move back into the Top 5 somewhere.

What console will lead March? Your guess is as good as mine. I like Nintendo Switch always, so I’ll say it wins March by both dollar and unit metrics. I’ve learned to not bet against Nintendo, even when I’m wholly unsure.

Did anything else stand out to you with February’s report? What do you foresee in March? Do you have any questions or comments? Feel free to reach out on social media. I also highly recommend checking out Piscatella’s thread on Twitter. Be safe and take care!

*Digital Sales Not Included, ^Xbox Digital Sales Not Included

Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise noted.

Sources: Bandai Namco, The NPD Group, Xbox Twitter (Image Credit).

-Dom

PlayStation 5 & Pokémon Legends Arceus Headline Third Straight Month of Declines for U.S. Games Industry Sales

In the first monthly sales report for the U.S. games industry in 2022, Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Nintendo’s Pokémon Legends Arceus headlined a month slightly down from the record result of early last year. It was the third straight month of year-on-year declines, after 1% in December and 10% during November before that.

Industry tracking firm The NPD Group shared its January 2022 U.S. games industry spending report, announcing how total consumer spend dipped a modest 2% to $4.68 billion. Compare that to last year’s all-time high of $4.8 billion. While hardware as a category saw double-digit growth even amidst a challenging supply situation, it wasn’t enough to outpace slower content and peripheral spending.

It seems there was a post-holiday hangover within two of those three major categories.

For Video Game Content, weaker mobile spending and fewer new games led to a single-digit monthly decline. Even a major Pokémon launch and PC re-releases of popular franchises like Monster Hunter and God of War couldn’t push the software category over the edge. This also signaled potentially lower ongoing spending on microtransactions (MTX) and additional content.

Video Game Hardware repeated as big gainer from a growth standpoint, boosting more than 20% versus January 2021’s amount. Sony’s PlayStation 5 took center stage, as it often must strictly based on its size, leading January’s console market by both units sold and dollars generated. This is the first time since September 2021 where Nintendo Switch didn’t lead on units sold. In fact, Microsoft’s Xbox Series X|S beat out Switch for second place.

Now, the key is this early in a generation, especially this one because of chip shortages, this is nearly all dictated by supply in the market. Like an animal going into hibernation, Nintendo stocked up during the holidays. It’s clear PlayStation, and to a lesser extend Xbox, recovered in the early part of the new year.

Last month, Hardware actually boasted the single best dollar spending during a January month in over a decade. And there’s a chance it could have been even higher, if only there was enough inventory!

“Hardware availability is still constrained, so we don’t know how high ‘high’ actually is when it comes to the console market,” NPD Group’s Mat Piscatella told GameDaily. “Several factors continue to impact the market that are difficult to predict. Things are still a bit chaotic. But when new titles are released, and when new hardware is available the market is responding positively.”

Note that year-to-date figures currently match the monthly, so January’s report features a smaller data set than usual. Everyone knows I like putting numbers in perspective. There won’t be any annual or trailing 12-month figures until maybe next month.

That said, let’s look into the numbers we do have.

United States Games Industry Sales (January 2nd, 2022 – January 29th, 2022)

In total, consumers spent close to $4.7 billion during the first month of 2022 which is 2% lower than last year. It’s still a quite good result, it just shows a reversion towards more normalized spending after long periods of stay-at-home restrictions. People are certainly still stimulating the games industry economy, mostly by buying new consoles, just not as much as they were during a record time in early 2021.

Within the broadest segment of Video Game Content, which accounts for mobile, software and related sources, sales hit $4.2 billion or 88% of the total. That dollar figure is 4% lower than last year, when it was $4.26 billion. (I’m not sure if that was a record at the time, it’s a possibility.)

The bellwether sub-segment here is mobile, which saw a decline of almost 7% during January. No dollar amount was given. This is expected weakening after the incredible growth of the last two years. It’s showing somewhat of a return to the “before times,” which seem so very far away. Main sales contributors during the month include Candy Crush Saga, Roblox, Coin Master, Genshin Impact plus Garena Free Fire.

Before diving into traditional software, I wanted to point out a relevant statistic. This is via The NPD Group’s Q4 2021 Games Market Dynamics report.

“Downloadable content (DLC), microtransactions and subscriptions accounted for just shy of 60% of non-mobile video game content spending in the U.S. in 2021. In 2016 this figure was well under half.” Piscatella shared on Twitter. What this implies is that 6 out of every 10 dollars spent in the U.S. within the Content category is ongoing purchasing rather than new premium releases. So often we focus on the latest and greatest, it’s actually the old that’s defining Content movement!

It’s still fun to call out new titles, of course. This was a quieter January than usual, bucking the recent trend of publishers kicking off the season with a leading release.

The early year’s flagship game launch was Pokémon Legends Arceus on Nintendo Switch. Even without digital sales, because Nintendo doesn’t report them. Other than its launch month spending not being a record, there’s not much historical context available in the report. So I looked back to see where each Pokémon Switch game ranked during their respective first months. Warning: It’s confusing.

During 2018, Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee released during a much more hectic schedule in November and took 5th and 6th place, respectively. At the time, Let’s Go Pickachu recorded the second best launch month in series history for a single release behind only 2000’s Pokémon Stadium.

Sword & Shield debuted a year later in November 2019, with the former hitting #3 and latter at #5. Not only that, its double-pack was smack in the middle at fourth place. Combined together, Sword & Shield had the best U.S. launch ever for Pokémon, above 2016’s Sun & Moon.

Then there was Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl which launched only two months ago in November 2021 when it started at third place. It also landed just outside the Top 10 in this January, at #11. All this to say that it’s difficult to compare historically, and sounds like Sword & Shield still maintain the crown on Switch.

Back to last month, Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty: Vanguard fell to number two ahead of its second season. Monster Hunter Rise from Capcom bounced way back to third place after a very lucrative PC launch.

Similarly, God of War (2018) received the PC boost as well with its fifth place finish, up from 146th in December. Yes, it does in fact pay to release games on multiple platforms! Elsewhere in the Sony camp, Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales was up next in sixth place. With this latest finish, it’s now third in lifetime spending within Sony-published titles behind only 2018’s Marvel’s Spider-Man and the aforementioned God of War (2018).

The only new game to chart besides Pokémon Legends Arceus was Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction, sneaking into the Top 10 at number nine. As a reminder, this first-person tactical co-op shooter also launched into Xbox Game Pass. The NPD Group didn’t provide any historical context for Rainbow Six titles. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege started at #7 back in December 2015, competing against the year’s biggest hitters during a holiday season. So it sounds like Extraction didn’t fare as well.

In terms of other storylines, I’d say the absence of Grand Theft Auto The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is worth noting though not without good reason. Its physical release was mid-December, except for Nintendo Switch which is actually out today. Just like how NBA 2K could be higher plus Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption no longer appear much on the charts, I attribute this to Take-Two Interactive not sharing any digital data. It’s difficult to infer anything in this context.

Here’s a look at the Top 20 premium software sellers for January 2022.

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

  1. Pokémon Legends Arceus*
  2. Call of Duty: Vanguard
  3. Monster Hunter Rise
  4. Madden NFL 22
  5. God of War (2018)
  6. Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales
  7. FIFA 22
  8. Mario Kart 8*
  9. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction
  10. Battlefield 2042
  11. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl*
  12. Far Cry 6
  13. Minecraft
  14. NBA 2K22*
  15. Mario Party Superstars*
  16. Animal Crossing: New Horizons*
  17. Forza Horizon 5
  18. Halo Infinite
  19. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  20. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

Turning to Video Game Hardware, this segment experienced the only increase during January 2022. And it was a solid increase. Monthly consumer spend on consoles rose 22% to $390 million, compared to under $320 million last year. That’s the best January hardware dollar sales since $447 million earned in January 2009.

Naturally on the growth trajectory, because of where the industry is at from a generational standpoint. Nintendo Switch is still going strong five years later, plus PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S are only in their 15th month on market.

Though I was genuinely surprised by the rankings last month.

Namely how PlayStation 5 took home the top spot by both units and dollar sales. A definite upset! The last time it led was before the holidays, in September. It’s not that I don’t believe in Sony’s latest console, it’s just I underestimated how many they could produce. (I wasn’t the only one.)

In fairness, it’s difficult to gauge where supply shifts from month to month right now. I expected Nintendo Switch to keep inventories going post holiday, and Sony’s recent report of slowing PlayStation 5 global shipments had me nervous.

Another unexpected outcome was Xbox Series X|S being runner-up. Which means Switch is third place. Maybe Nintendo shipped too many in the holiday quarter so Switch could pass Wii lifetime numbers, huh?

It seems there’s a sign of life within next generation console supply. Or perhaps it’s temporary? That’s the big question! Whichever company has its suppliers making more consoles, that’s the one winning here in the domestic report. Demand is certainly here, and consistently.

Our final segment is Video Game Accessories, which saw the most substantial decline during last month’s announcement.

Buyer spending declined 15% on Accessories to $185 million. It was $218 million in January 2021, which was a record January at the time. Not only that, all of its sub-segments established all-time January month highs this time last year. It’s the true definition of a difficult comparable. A decline like this is exacerbated by a strong prior period.

Leading the pack within accessories was Microsoft’s Xbox Elite Series 2 Wireless Controller as the best-seller. No doubt bolstered by that second place hardware finish for the Xbox Series X|S, plus I’d wager demand on the PC side. A hefty price tag doesn’t hurt, since these are based on dollars generated.

That’s the end of a quickie U.S. games industry sales article, focused strictly on the single month of January rather than expanding to 12-month figures. My apologies!

There’s still plenty to learn from an early year report like this. Content spending is ever so slightly down, which I see more as a movement impacted by mobile weakness than anything alarming on the premium side. If anything, a major Nintendo release like Pokémon props it up. Combine that with the large ongoing sales portion with DLC, add-on content and the like, the software category is holding pace.

February 2022 is a much busier time for releases, two months before many fiscal year ends. Dying Light 2 Stay Human already has 3 million players according to Techland. PlayStation exclusive Horizon Forbidden West and FromSoftware’s Elden Ring are launching as two of the most-anticipated games of the year.

I expect significant carry-on sales during the second month of Pokémon Legends Arceus. There’s also a good chance Destiny 2 pops back onto the list after launching its big Witch Queen expansion. I’m leaning towards Pokémon retaining the top spot, yet both Dying Light 2 Stay Human and Horizon Forbidden West have a legitimate chance. These three should make up the Top 3.

Hardware will be supply and supply will be Hardware, a segment at the mercy of chip manufacturers and parts suppliers in this inflationary situation. Piscatella seems to agree.

“We continue to be in a supply constrained environment,” Piscatella said to GameDaily. “The question is when that might change, and predictions are all over the place on that one. Is it later this year? Will it be 2023? Who knows? We’ve got a ways to go before anyone should expect to walk into a store and pick up a console of their choice off the shelf.”

Well, I will try to predict as best I can. I’m leaning towards PlayStation 5 repeating, then Nintendo Switch in second and Xbox Series X|S in third by a slim margin. It’s anyone’s guess!

Please check out Piscatella’s detailed thread here on Twitter and give it a like. See you next time in February, it’s sure to be a wild one.

*Digital Sales Not Included, ^Xbox Digital Sales Not Included

Comparisons are year-over-year unless otherwise noted.

Sources: GameDaily.biz, The NPD Group, Tom’s Guide (Image Credit).

-Dom