NPD's stats for the month of April made for grim reading in the U.S late Thursday. Game sales plunged 22 percent on the same period last year. Hardware sales were down 37 percent.
Overall sales were down from over $1 billion a year ago, to $766 million. So far this year, the U.S business is 11 percent short of its 2009 running total ($4.7 billion against $5.3 billion).
This was the fourth worst YoY decline since NPD began its service, with two of the other culprits from the middle of last year, the other way back in September 2000.
For those looking for a slice of hope, NPD pointed to mitigating circumstances. The Easter blip fell in April in 2009, not so in 2010. NPD's Anita Frazier said, "In April '09, consumers attributed $55 million of industry sales to Easter as a purchase occasion, which would account for about 21% of the decline from last year since Easter purchasing happened in March this year."
Analysts, looking at a fairly weak roster of new releases for the month had braced the industry for a year-on-year decline but even their seemingly baleful prognostications came in a single digits. The months biggest new game was Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction for Xbox 360, with unit sales of less than 500,000.
The hardware tally was no more cheering. Wii sold 277,200 units, Xbox 360 and PS3 managed 185,400 and 180,300 respectively. DS sold 440,800 with PSP limping home with just 65,000.