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Video Game Industry Sales Fall

While Easter isn't usually considered an important holiday for retailers, it is in the video-game industry.

The video-game industry suffered a 17% drop in sales at U.S. retailers in March, but the unusual decline is the result of Easter, a big holiday for sales, falling in April this year, a market research firm said.

While Easter isn't usually considered an important holiday for retailers, it is in the video-game industry. The holiday accounted for 8% of sales last year or $121 million, the NPD Group said. The fact that Easter fell in April this year, rather than March like last year, coupled with the release last March of the Super Smash Bros.: Brawl video game explained last month's overall sales decline 17% from a year ago, to $1.43 billion.

"This is very much like September of last year, which did not compare favorably to September of 2007 as the result of a huge game launch, Halo 3," NPD analyst Anita Frazier said in an e-mailed statement late Thursday.

The one area of surprise in March was hardware sales, Frazier said. Sales of video-game consoles fell 18% from March 2008 to $455.55 million.

"While it's not unusual for March hardware sales to be lower than February, I thought we'd see higher unit sales on most platforms," Frazier said. "The [Microsoft] Xbox 360 was the only platform to achieve a year-over-year unit sales increase."

Frazier said the release of Super Smash Bros.: Brawl could have boosted hardware sales in March 2008. The video game went on to become the fourth best-selling game last year, according to NPD.

Not included in NPD's March figures was the Nintendo DSi handheld console, which was released this month in the United States. Nintendo is hoping the latest iteration of the DS line of portables will continue to drive the success of the product line.

Video-game software sales in general fell 17% from March 2008 to $792.83 million, NPD said. The accessories segment of the market dropped 15% to $185.67 million.

The Nintendo's Wii and portable DS consoles led the industry in terms of unit sales, respectively, followed by the No. 3 Xbox 360. Sony's PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Portable were fourth and fifth, respectively.

On the software side, Resident Evil 5 led the pack. The video game debuted in March and more than 1.5 million units were sold, a record launch for the franchise, NPD said. The publisher is Capcom Entertainment.

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