US game spending falls 23 per cent in May

US video gamers spent less on games, hardware and accessories in May compared with a year ago, a sign that this year's release schedule couldn't compete with Take Two Interactive's "Grand Theft Auto IV" last spring.

The NPD Group said on Thursday that spending fell 23 per cent from last May to $863 million. It was the first monthly tally below $1 billion since August 2007 and the third month in a row of year-over-year declines.

The best-selling title this May was THQ's "UFC 2009 Undisputed," which sold 679,600 units on Microsoft's Xbox 360, and 334,400 on Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3, for a total of just over 1 million.

In comparison, "GTA IV" sold 1.3 million units last May on both platforms.

Nintendo's "Wii Fit" sold 352,800 units this May for the No. 2 spot, down from 687,700 a year ago.

Games for the Wii took five of the month's top 10 titles. All 10 sold a combined 2.6 million units, compared with 3.7 million a year ago, NPD said.

"The video games industry continues to struggle with difficult comparisons to last year," said NPD analyst Anita Frazier in a statement.

Frazier said every sales category declined from a year ago except for portable hardware, bolstered by new versions of the Nintendo DS, including the DSi and the Lite.

Hardware sales plunged 30 per cent to $303 million while software sales were down 17 per cent to $449 million. Accessories sales fell 25 per cent $112 million.

During the month, Nintendo sold 633,500 DS portable consoles and 289,500 Wii systems, while Sony sold 131,000 PlayStation 3 systems, 117,000 PlayStation 2 consoles and 100,400 PSP portable devices. Microsoft sold 175,000 Xbox 360 units.

But Cowen & Co. games analyst Doug Creutz said the unusual strength of last year's "GTA IV" and "Wii Fit" skewed what is usually an anemic time of year.

"This doesn't really change my view on the underlying strength of the video game segment. Good games can still sell a lot of units," he said. "I think that the negative year-over-year trends are far more due to the release schedule and less due to the economy."