Video game sales plummet 17% in April

Is the economy or game quality to blame?

So there's bad news, and then there's some more bad news. First, the bad news: April video game sales in North America are poised to clock in around US$550 million, down 17% year-over-year, says Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter.

The other bit of bad news is actually kind of good news, depending on your vantage. The bad bit's that we're once more looking at an apple-to-oranges sales month. Guitar Hero: Metallica? The Godfather II? Company of Heroes: Tales of Valor? Escape the Museum? That's the "blockbuster" competition up against last year's Grand Theft Auto IV and Mario Kart Wii, which together rang up about 4 million units for $325 million and a whopping 36% cut of April 2008's total haul. The good bit's that that's an argument against April's downturn being purely economy-driven. As WM puts it, "We believe that the decline is more attributable to difficult year-over-year comparisons (which improve after July) than to overall weakness in the economy," adding that the company believes video games software remains "recession-resistant."

Who's hurting most? Domestic PS2 software sales continue to plummet like a piano dropped off a cargo plane, down 60% year-over-year -- so much so that WM says it's dropping PS2 software sales from its subsequent monthly reports.

Estimated console sell-through numbers:

480,000 - Wii

275,000 - Xbox 360

175,000 - PlayStation 3

120,000 - PlayStation 2

150,000 - PlayStation Portable

Translation: Wii demand-to-supply is finally in balance, while there's increasing demand for Xbox 360s and PS3s. The beginning of the end of the Wii craze? Maybe. Or just the end of the beginning, if Nintendo releases its rumored high-def refresh add-on or standalone part.

How'd Nintendo's new DSi, which launched April 5, fare in all this? Nintendo claimed their stylish camera-enabled handheld refresh bagged around 435k units in US sales per its first week, so expect big numbers -- WM's forecast of 800,000 units suggests an increase in overall DS sales of 93%.

In other words, what the market taketh away, it giveth back, depending on how you slice the data.

In the meantime? It's coming up summer, and there's an embarrassment of gaming riches just up the pike.

For more gaming news and opinion, park your tweet-readers at twitter.com/game_on.

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Matt Peckham

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