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SYFY WIRE gaming

Switch, The Last of Us Part II lead 10-year high of $6.6 billion in U.S. game sales

By Benjamin Bullard
Ellie in The Last of Us Part II

Video games are on people’s minds in a big way these days. A new report that tracks monthly games spending finds players are shelling out more real-world dollars for the chance to spend all those in-game Fortnite V-Bucks, Final Fantasy gil, and Animal Crossing bells than at any time in the past 10 years.

Market analysis firm NPD Group has just unloaded a trove of new gaming sales figures spanning the first half of 2020, as well as the month of June. The industry hit a new sales high of $6.6 billion in the U.S. alone for the first half of 2020 — the largest total since mid-year figures landed in June of 2009, according to NPD analyst Matt Piscatella. That includes a record-approaching $1.2 billion spent on gaming in the U.S. for June alone:

The $6.6 billion sales figure encompasses everything games-related, from software to consoles to peripherals to online services. It’s a staggering figure that would likely outpace the domestic movie box office, even in years when there’s been no pandemic keeping summer blockbusters off-limits at theaters. While NPD releases global figures separately, the uptick could point to 2020 being a bigger year for games worldwide than 2019, when the $120 billion of spending on digital games alone lapped the global movie box office by roughly triple.

In terms of the games themselves, the numbers hold few surprises. Big in-house releases like Final Fantasy VII Remake and The Last of Us Part II gave Sony a huge boost for the PS4 in the first half of the year, with TLOU2 especially breaking June launch-window records (some of which Remake had just broken only weeks before). Microsoft’s top June sales came from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Grand Theft Auto V, as well as getting a significant boost from the Xbox Elite Series 2 Wireless Controller — the bestselling June accessory in a record-setting month for peripherals. Nintendo, meanwhile, forged ahead with Animal Crossing: New Horizons taking the top gaming spot, with the Switch outpacing all other consoles in overall sales, as well as in individual units sold.

While games historically have been on the rise over the past decade, the pandemic’s role in encouraging stay-at-home entertainment has likely accelerated video games’ double-digit percentage sales jumps in the spring months since social distancing measures went into effect. And whether it’s pandemic-related or not, Sony just recently decided to double its pre-launch output of PlayStation 5 consoles, bumping its original production order from 5 million units to 10 million.

With Switch production on the rise and new Sony and Microsoft consoles coming our way before the end of the year — plus big cross-platform games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Spider-Man: Miles Morales on the horizon — the second half of 2020 spells a bright future for the video game business. More importantly for players, it also suggests that developers will keep their feet on the accelerator to get new games in players’ hands, as much of the U.S. rides out the lingering pandemic from home.