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SYFY WIRE gaming

U.S. video game sales hit historic high as people stay home to play

By Benjamin Bullard
Joel faces Ellie in The Last of Us Part II

In a historic high, people in the U.S. just set a new record for shelling out for video games, turning more than ever before to interactive entertainment for the three-month period from April through June.

Mega-releases from the first half of 2020 including The Last of Us Part II, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and (of course) Animal Crossing: New Horizons all helped power games spending to the highest levels ever seen for a single quarter in the U.S., according to newly-released sales info from data analyst NPD Group. Game sales surged in the second quarter from April-June, leaping 30 percent over last year’s same-period total for a record $11.6 billion on hardware and peripherals, services, and the games themselves.

Perhaps signaling that gaming has taken its place alongside TV binging as stay-at-home comfort food, the list of games that drove much of players’ epic splurge is a who’s-who list of big, familiar titles. “Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Call of Duty: Warzone, Candy Crush Saga, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Final Fantasy VII: Remake, Grand Theft Auto V, Mario Kart 8: Deluxe, Minecraft, NBA 2K20, Pokémon Go and The Last of Us: Part II were among the best-performing titles of the second quarter,” reported NPD.

With all three major game consoles now well-established and new ones on the way soon from Sony and Microsoft, the vast majority of that $11.6 billion figure went directly for games. Sales of game titles on their own reportedly accounted for $10.2 billion of the huge number, with “only” $848 million spent on console hardware. Even so, the hardware spending still represents an enormous jump from last year: “Strong growth across Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One led to an overall hardware category sales increase of 57%,” the report notes.

Putting things in context, NPD analyst Mat Piscatella said that it’s hard not to associate the across-the-board surge with the new realities of finding more entertainment at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

“During the pandemic, many have turned to video games not only to keep them preoccupied, but also to stay in touch with family and friends,” he wrote. “This has resulted in an acceleration of what were already established trends towards heightened video game player engagement. I don’t see any signs of this slowing down.”

With movie theaters still reluctant to reopen en masse and release dates for nearly all blockbusters deferred until getting outdoors gets back to normal, it’s hard to argue with that prediction. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are waiting in the wings for big product launches later this year, too, alongside launches for huge AAA games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. So if we’re all still keeping things close to home through the second half of the year, at least we won’t be starved for gaming options.