The March 2020 NPD report is in, and it was a huge month for sales as Animal Crossing and social-distancing led to more interest in gaming.
March wasn’t a good month for anyone. But it was slightly less awful for people who sell video games. That’s especially true if the video game is Animal Crossing: New Horizons. With people in the United States isolating themselves for much of the month, many people obviously turned to safe at-home entertainment. As a result, consumers in the U.S. spent $1.597 billion on gaming hardware, new full games, and accessories plus game cards, according to the March 2020 NPD report.
That is the most March money the industry has generated in NPD’s reporting since $1.8 billion in 2008. Here are the full numbers:
|March 2020 Dollar Sales||Mar’19||Mar’20||Change|
|Total Video Game Sales||$1,186m||$1,597m||35%|
|Video Game Hardware||$282m||$461m||63%|
|Video Game Software (Physical and Full Game Digital Formats from the Nintendo eShop, PlayStation, STEAM and Xbox platforms for DLP Participants)||$550m||$739m||34%|
|Video Game Accessories & Game Cards||$354m||$397m||12%|
“March 2020 tracked spending across video game hardware, software, and accessories and game cards totaled $1.6 billion, gaining 35% when compared to a year ago,” said NPD analyst Mat Piscatella. “Year-to-date 2020 tracked spending across video game hardware, software, and accessories and game cards totaled $3 billion, declining 4 percent when compared to a year ago.”
This is a massive turnaround for an industry that was circling the end-of-the-generation drain for most of the last year. Through the first two months of 2020, sales in the U.S. had declined 28% compared to the same period in 2019. So what closed the gap? Animal Crossing and a plethora of high-profile new releases.
And yes, COVID-19-related social distancing likely gets some of the credit as well. That drove people to pick up new hardware. The Switch set an all-time record for unit sales for any March month since NPD began tracking. But PlayStation 4 and Xbox One dollar sales also jumped 25% each year-over-year.
March 2020 NPD: Top 20 best-selling games of the month in the U.S.
NPD tracks physical sales at retailers, but it also gets digital data directly from publishers. But not every company participates. For example, Nintendo doesn’t share its first-party digital sales, and Activision Blizzard does not provide its Battle.net sales. This chart also does not include microtransactions, subscriptions, or anything beyond full-game sales. With those caveats in mind, it is best to think of this as a very useful snapshot of a much more dynamic industry.
These charts are sorted by dollar sales — not number of units sold.
* Digital sales not included
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons*
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
- MLB: The Show 20
- Resident Evil 3
- NBA 2K20
- Doom Eternal*
- Persona 5: Royal
- Grand Theft Auto V
- Borderlands 3
- Mario Kart 8: Deluxe*
- Nioh 2
- Red Dead Redemption II
- FIFA 20 [EA Sports]
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
- Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX*
- Madden NFL 20 [EA Sports]
- Just Dance 2020
- Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order
- Mortal Kombat 11
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2: Remastered
^ Steam sales not included
# Minecraft digital sales on Xbox and PlayStation included
In terms of game sales, this was the best March of the generation.
“Dollar sales of tracked video game software grew 34% in March compared to a year ago, to $739 million,” said Piscatella. “March tracked software spending reached its highest total for a March month since 2011. Nine of the top 10 best-selling games of March 2020 generated higher dollar sales than similarly ranked titles a year ago.”
The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launched in 2013. The Wii U debuted a year before that (Switch launched March 2017). But last month beat all the previous March periods in terms of games sales.
Even blockbuster results like these couldn’t offset the overall trend completely, though.
“Total first quarter tracked software spending fell 8%, to $1.4 billion,” said Piscatella.
Big new games like Resident Evil 3 and Doom Eternal contributed to the strong month. But if you had to pick one game to represent March 2020, that’s easy. Let’s talk about Animal Crossing.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a smash hit
Does it seem like everyone in your life is talking about Animal Crossing constantly? Well, it seems that way probably because everyone in your life is playing it.
“Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the best-selling game of March 2020 and the second best-selling game of 2020 year to date,” said Piscatella. “Animal Crossing: New Horizons achieved the third highest launch month physical dollar and unit sales of any Nintendo published game in tracked history. Among Nintendo published games, only Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Dec 2018) and Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Mar 2008) debuted with higher physical software sales in a launch month.”
I’m going to repeat that for everyone in the back.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons had a better launch month than any Mario or Zelda game since the NPD started tracking. It is now obvious that this series stands among Nintendo’s most important.
And the glow-up is happening before our eyes.
Here’s another astonishing tidbit from The NPD Group.
“Launch month dollar sales of Animal Crossing: New Horizons have exceeded the lifetime sales of all other Animal Crossing franchise games, making Animal Crossing: New Horizons the best-selling game in franchise history,” said Piscatella.
PlayStation’s MLB The Show 20 thrives as real sports wither
“MLB The Show 20 was the third best-selling game of March 2020, and instantly becomes the fifth best-selling game of 2020,” said Piscatella. “And MLB The Show 20 is the fastest-selling game in MLB The Show franchise history, with launch month sales significantly exceeding those of the previous best, MLB The Show 19.”
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was the second best-selling game of March 2020 and is now the best-selling game of 2020 year to date,” said Piscatella. “March sales of Call of Duty franchise titles reached a new all-time high for a March month, exceeding the previous peak set in March 2010.”
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