Port Washington, N.Y. – U.S. game sales slid in May to $743.1 million, down 14% from $866.8 million last year, according to a report from market research company NPD Group.  This past May was the lowest sales month since October 2006.

Video games hardware slid 5% from $241.6 million to $228.9 million, however, NPD Group analyst Anita Frazier noted, “Overall, the Xbox 360 platform has contributed 34% of year-to-date revenues (across hardware, content and accessories) generated by new physical retail sales, gaining 7 share points over last year.”

Sales of video games software plummeted 19% from $466.3 million to $375.8 million. Frazier attributes the precipitous drop to “a light new release schedule as compared to last year. There were 42 new SKU’s introduced in May as compared to 58 last May, and 72 in 2009.  This is reflected in the share of dollars contributed by May releases, which was 28% in 2011 as compared to 41% last year.”

An uptick in digital purchasing may have also affected the numbers. “Keep in mind that purchases of content are increasingly occurring in digital format, and May saw a notable digital release in the second map pack for ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops’ which was titled ‘Escalation,’ ” Frazier notes. “Undoubtedly, this shifted some dollars that might have been spent on new physical content at retail.”

Take-Two Interactive’s “L.A. Noire” was the best-selling game of May, followed by Bethesda Softworks’ “Brink” and Disney Interactive Studios’ “Lego Pirates of the Caribbean.” Electronic Arts’ “Portal 2” and Warner Bros. Interactive’s “Mortal Kombat 2011” rounded out the top five.

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