'NBA 2K20,' 'Borderlands 3' Record-Breaking Launches Can't Buoy Overall September Game Sales

Courtesy 2K
'NBA 2K20'

Software sales were down eight percent in the U.S. last month.

Spending across hardware and software in the video game industry saw an eight percent decline to $1.2 billion in the U.S. in September, down from $1.4 billion in 2018, the NPD Group reported Thursday. Meanwhile, year-to-date spending for 2019 stands at $8.3 billion in the U.S., down from $8.8 billion over the same period in 2018, a dip of six percent.

The declines are driven by decreased hardware sales, which is to be expected in the late life cycle of two of the three current major consoles on the market (Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One), both of which debuted in 2013. However, Nintendo's Switch consoles (the original Switch debuted in 2017, while its handheld Switch Lite counterpart bowed in September) have been performing well, topping 15 million units sold in North America. 

Hardware spending in September dropped 22 percent year-over-year to $240 million. Nintendo's Switch was the best-selling platform over the period and remains the best-selling console of 2019. Overall hardware sales in the year-to-date are down 21 percent from last year to $1.9 billion. 

One the software side, sales were also down to $732 million, a four percent downturn year-over-year. The sports title NBA 2K20, which launched Sept. 6, was the month's top seller and is now the best-selling game of 2019, supplanting April's Mortal Kombat 11. NBA 2K20's debut was also the biggest in first-month sales of any sports game ever, besting NBA 2K19's previous record. Furthermore, NBA 2K is now the sixth-best-selling franchise in history, topping Guitar Hero in full game dollar sales. 

Elsewhere, 2K Games other September release, Borderlands 3 (developed by Gearbox Software), set a franchise-launch record. The "looter shooter" bowed as the second-best seller last month and is now the third-best-selling game of the year, behind Mortal Kombat 11 and NBA 2K20.

Both Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening and Xbox One's Gears 5 appeared in the top five best sellers for their respective platforms (both games are exclusive to their own console), with Link's Awakening topping Nintendo's charts and Gears 5 securing the No. 3 spot behind Borderlands 3 and NBA 2K20 for the Xbox One. Neither game, however, cracked the top 10 of the year's best sellers thus far. 

The month's two other AAA releases — Ubisoft's Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint and 2K's FIFA 20 — failed to resonate in big ways. The former scored the No. 5 and No. 6 spots on the PS4 and Xbox One, respectively, while the latter clocked in at No. 3 and No. 4 on the two consoles. FIFA 20 did not chart on the Switch's top 10 list. Breakpoint is not available on Nintendo's platform.