Videogame Sales Lagged in 2010 Despite Xbox's High Scores

Microsoft’s Xbox dominated the charts at the end of 2010, despite year-over-year revenue declines for both videogame hardware and software.

The latest statistics released today from NPD Group estimated that consumer spending on game content totaled between $15.4 and $15.6 billion, which was flat to down 1 percent, compared to 2009. Meanwhile, sales of new physical videogame hardware, software and accessories were also down–6 percent, to end the year at $18.6 billion.

Microsoft was able to counteract those industry-wide trends through the successful launch of its Kinect hands-free controller and strong sales of the hit game Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Sales of the Xbox 360 jumped 42 percent year-over-year, and was the only platform to register an increase in unit sales. In fact, December 2010 was the best month ever for Xbox 360 sales after selling 1.9 million units.

After the figures were released today, Microsoft used the moment to toot its own horn: In a statement, it said it had pulled units from its January and February production to keep up with holiday demand for both Xbox and Kinect–and it still sold out in some circumstances. Now it’s scrambling to catch up.

At CES, Microsoft said that roughly eight million Kinects had been sold after being on the market for roughly two months, and that over 50 million Xbox 360s have been sold worldwide over the lifetime of the console.

The videogame industry is very cyclical, with software sales often trailing new hardware sales. Without new console introductions from the usual suspects, Microsoft has tried to increase sales by repositioning the Xbox as an entertainment hub, and relied on the Kinect to make the console appeal to a wider audience outside hard-core gamers.

Nintendo is hoping that its new 3DS gaming handheld will boost sales–however, it doesn’t come out for another couple of months, so it missed the critical holiday season and will face competition from smartphones.

NPD Group concluded that in December the Wii and the 360 platforms generated the greatest dollar sales of all platforms at 32 percent and 31 percent, respectively. That’s across all categories, including hardware, software and accessories.

Other than Xbox, there were some bright spots, but it wasn’t enough to offset overall declines. NPD Group said the highlights included digital downloads, mobile apps, social network games and non-digital stuff, like used games and PC games.

The numbers released today are early estimates. NPD Group said it will issue its final analysis in March.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus