Despite all the talk about the strength of the Star Wars video game franchise and all of the critical love for video game maker Bethesda’s post-apocalyptic world, the best selling games of 2015 were the same franchises that topped the list in 2014.
Activision’s (“ATVI”) Call of Duty: Black Ops III was the year’s best selling title, followed by EA’s Madden NFL 16, The NPD Group said Thursday.
Both franchises had taken the top two slots in 2014 and the No. 2 and No. 3 slots in 2013—when Grand Theft Auto V was released.
It’s getting to be a familiar pattern. In fact, with the exception of 2013, a Call of Duty game has topped the year end sales charts since 2009. Activision, in a statement Thursday evening, said the Call of Duty series has now sold over 250 million copies life-to-date worldwide.
Bethesda’s Fallout 4 took the No. 3 slot for 2015 with a surprising sales win over EA’s Star Wars Battlefront, which earlier this year was considered a viable candidate for the year’s top selling title. Three years after its initial release, Grand Theft Auto V is still a sales juggernaut by ranking fifth in sales last year.
The numbers could be bad news for EA, whose investors were hoping the company’s sales projections of 13 million copies for Battlefront this year were conservative. Shares in the company (“EA”) are down 5% since the game’s release on Nov. 17.
Overall, 2015 brick and mortar video game sales—NPD does not track sales information from digital storefronts—matched those of 2014 at $13.13 billion. Flat sales is not especially good news, given where the industry is at this point in the life cycle of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, when mainstream adoption is generally expected to be on the rise.
December software sales, which, traditionally, are seen as a barometer of the industry’s health, were down 3%, while year end software sales were off 4%. It was the boost in video game accessories, such as figurines for Skylanders and Disney Infinity that prevented 2015 from being a year of declining sales.
The good news for the industry is that the great unknown of digital sales appears to be strong because the number of consoles in homes is at a much better pace than when Sony (“SNE”) and Microsoft (“MSFT”) rolled out the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
“After 26 months of sales, the combined cumulative sales of Xbox One and PS4 exceeds the 26 month total of the PS3 and Xbox 360 by 47%,” said NPD analyst Liam Callahan. “The lead from the prior generation has expanded due to the strong PS4 and Xbox One 2015 holiday, going from 38% by the end of October, growing to 47% by the end of November, and maintaining 47% higher sales by the end of December.”
Last month, in fact, was the best month to date for sales of both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, according to NPD. While NPD does not release specific sales numbers, Sony, earlier this month, said it had sold 5.7 million PS4s during the holiday period. Microsoft, while not giving specific numbers, also touted a strong holiday season for Xbox One sales.