These days, there seem to be at least a few signs that the general state of the economy is improving. But video games sales aren't one of them.
For the second straight month, and 10th in the last year, the industry saw sales drop, year over year. According to the NPD Group, which compiles monthly sales statistics for the video games business, total revenues in January came in at $1.16 billion, down 5 percent from $1.22 billion in January 2010.
Over the last year, the industry has seen upswings in monthly year-over-year sales just twice--last November and last March. Otherwise, revenues have gone down each month.
Generally, NPD issues an analysis with its monthly report, but it didn't do so this month. It did reveal that sales were down throughout the video games industry ecosystem, with accessories being the only category that saw a jump (up 6 percent). Both software and hardware were down significantly in January.
For the month of January, the industry sold $576 million in software, down 5 percent from $606 million a year earlier. Hardware sales were down 8 percent, from $353.7 million in January 2010 to $324 million last month, according to NPD.
If there were any bright spots in the industry, Microsoft claimed them for its Xbox 360 platform. Microsoft said in a statement Thursday that Xbox sales were up 14.4 percent from a year ago, with 381,000 units sold. A year ago, the company moved 333,000 Xboxes.
Microsoft claimed its console was the only one to show monthly growth from a year ago, suggesting that the Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii consoles saw lower sales in January. For its part, Sony claimed that PS3 software was up 25 percent from January 2010.
As of early Thursday evening, Nintendo had not come out with its own statement.
One analyst digging into the January numbers cautioned against early optimism, but suggested that improvements are on the horizon.
"It is not clear to us that growth will return in February and March, as Wii and portables will likely stay weak until the 3DS launches in March in the U.S.," Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities wrote in a note issued today. "Once Nintendo launches the 3DS in late March, we expect a modest recovery for handheld software sales. While we cannot be as confident in a recovery for Wii software sales through the middle part of the year, we think that growth in the installed bases of the PS3 and Xbox 360 and a strong game lineup will support modest growth for software sales on those platforms."