September 2015 NPD Sales Analysis: NBA2K16 has the best launch for a sports game on 8th gen


NPD recently released their report on the video games industry at US retail for September 2015. NPD noted that the PlayStation 4 remained the best selling console of the month and number one in software sales. The PlayStation 4 continues to be the cumulative sales leader in the USA with an estimated 9.0 million units sold through to end users.

Hardware sales dropped 27% from $431.2 million in September 2014 to $313.5 million in September 2015. Unit hardware sales dropped 23% year on year, this is mainly attributed to the launch of Destiny last year which helped move additional hardware. Despite that, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are still tracking 40% higher than the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in the same time frame. The Wii U on the other hand is tracking far behind the Wii despite seeing a 110% increase in hardware sales from last month. Just like last month, more than 90% of hardware sales were in the form of bundles with the Destiny: The Taken King PS4 bundle selling approximately 175,000 units.

Retail Software sales amounted to $465.6 million which is only down 3% from last years total of $480.6 million. We believe that Destiny’s huge launch last year was matched through the combined launches of NBA2k16, Metal Gear Solid V, Fifa 16 and Destiny: The Taken King. Accessory and Toys to Life sales reached $230.9 million which as up 24% year on year thanks to the continued growth of Amiibo and Skylanders toys. Below are the top 10 best-selling games in the USA according to NPD:

  1. NBA 2K16 (PS4, Xbox One, 360, PS3)
  2. Madden NFL 16 (PS4, Xbox One, 360, PS3)
  3. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS4, Xbox One, PS3, 360)
  4. FIFA 16 (PS4, Xbox One, 360, PS3)
  5. Destiny: The Taken King (Xbox One, PS4, 360, PS3)
  6. Super Mario Maker (Wii U)
  7. Disney Infinity 3.0 (360, Wii U, Xbox One, PS4, PS3)
  8. Mad Max (PS4, Xbox One)
  9. NHL 16 (Xbox One, PS4, 360, PS3)
  10. Minecraft (360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4)

It’s important to remember that NPD only tracks new physical retail sales in the USA. It does not account for digital or used game sales so whilst it doesn’t provide us with information about the overall market it is useful at showing general trends seen at retail and how games are performing.


NBA2K16 was this months best-selling game with more than 1 million unit sales at retail across all 4 SKU’s. NBA2K16 had the best launch month ever for any Sports game on 8th gen. EA’s NBA Live 16 failed to enter the top 10 but EA did see a strong second month for Madden NFL 16 which only dropped down to the number two spot this month. Metal Gear Solid V had a solid opening at number 3 but it was surprising to see Madden above at number 2, despite having its launch in August, and NBA2K16 with an even higher debut at number 1 despite only being tracked for 5 days of sales.

Last year saw Destiny take the number one spot with almost 3 million unit sales at retail. The expansion this year debuted at number 5 with just under 3/4 of a million units sold through at retail. However we do believe that the digital version accounted for a much higher percentage this time due to the upgrade offers available to existing owners. This is further backed up by a statement from Sony which mentions that September was the highest grossing month for the PlayStation Network Store thanks to Destiny: The Taken King which became the most downloaded game on day one in PlayStation store history. The bundle was also very successful and allowed the PlayStation 4 version to become the most purchased at retail and when you add in bundle sales it would actually be higher than Fifa in the top 10.

Nintendo’s Super Mario Maker came in at number 6 with 445,000 units sold through at retail. A very solid opening for a great game. Nintendo also noted that the game has sold more than 500,000 units in the US when digital downloads are included and worldwide more than 1 million units have been sold. The 3DS hasn’t been having the best year in the US despite launching the NEW 3DS hardware earlier this year. However Nintendo did confirm that the 3DS is tracking 25% higher in 2015 than it was during the first 9 months of 2014 and that their latest title, Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer sold through nearly 115,000 during its first week on sale.

Based on publicly available estimates
Based on publicly available estimates

As mentioned above, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are still tracking higher than the Xbox 360 and PS3. This can be seen in the chart above which compares the first 36 months of sales for each system. (Note: PS4 and XB1 only have 23 months of tracked sales so far). Sales of next generation consoles have been fairly healthy but it is important to keep in mind that at one point last year the PS4 and XB1 were ahead by over 80% where as now the combined lead versus their predecessors is only 40%. Whilst both consoles started off much better than their predecessors I am inclined to agree that they will eventually fall behind at some point in the future and I also believe that this generation will have a total install base that is smaller compared to last gen. That being said I do expect the PS4 and XB1 to have a great holiday season.

When looking at monthly sales we can see that the PlayStation 4 has consistently outsold the Xbox One each month since launch with the only exception being the holiday season last year and a couple of other months. Microsoft were very aggressive during the last holiday season and the results have shown that the Xbox brand still has a huge following in the US where it has been most successful over the years. However, despite the Xbox One’s lower price and large amount of value on offer the PlayStation 4 continues to remain ahead every month.

October will be the first time the PlayStation 4 has received a price cut worldwide and so I would expect the console to receive a healthy boost. Microsoft will also be releasing Halo at the end of the month which should allow the Xbox One to receive a hardware boost as well.

Based on publicly available estimates
Based on publicly available estimates

Overall the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are still seeing healthy adoption rates and I expect this holiday season to bring in a large amount of users who will be upgrading from last gen due to the new “next gen only” titles.

In the US the PlayStation 4 now has a comfortable lead over the Xbox One in terms of hardware sales and as I expected the gap between the PS4 and XB1 has grown even further. Microsoft will be hoping for a repeat of last year where they were able to close the gap down to around 500,000 and will be even happier if they can reduce the PS4 lead even more. However the Xbox One has had to go through a lot to keep up with PS4 in terms of unit sales and it won’t have been cheap for Microsoft. This year I expect Microsoft will attempt to compete on value rather than drop the price again.

To date the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have sold 17.1 million units combined in the USA.

If you’d like to read the full report by myself with much more detailed analysis and reporting then you can see my blog post here for more details.

Please note that all numbers quoted above are based on publicly available estimates