U.S. Video Game Spending Sees Explosive Growth in March, Tops $1.6B

Animal Crossing New Horizons - Nintendo Publicity-H 2020
Courtesy of Nintendo

Likely driven by "safer at home" orders across the country amid the coronavirus pandemic, the industry saw a record high in a March month not topped since 2008.

With a majority of states enforcing some form of "safer at home" order amid the coronavirus pandemic, video game spending in the U.S. saw a major spike in March, topping $1.6 billion across hardware, software and accessories, a 36 percent increase year-over-year, per the NPD Group. The number is the highest reported spend for the month of March since 2008, which topped $1.8 billion.

Driving much of the spending was Nintendo's Switch family of consoles, which more than doubled sales year-over-year. As a result, Switch consoles sold out at many U.S. retailers such as Best Buy, GameStop, Target and Amazon. A Nintendo spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter in March that "more systems are on the way."

Switch console sales broke an all-time record for hardware units in the month of March, besting its own launch month of March 2017. Over the first quarter of 2020, the Switch also generated the highest hardware sales of any console since the Nintendo DS in 2010.

Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox One also saw bumps in sales last month, with both consoles seeing a 25 percent increase year-over-year. Overall, hardware sales in March were up a staggering 63 percent over 2018, topping $461 million. Over Q1 2020, hardware sales hit $773 million, a 2 percent increase year-over-year.

On the software side, spending also grew substantially from 2018. Spending on game software topped $739 million in March, a 34 percent uptick, driven primarily by Nintendo's Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which debuted March 20. The family-friendly title was the month's top seller (and is the No. 2 seller for 2020 so far, lagging only behind 2019's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare) and delivered the third-highest launch month in both dollar sales and units sold for any game published by Nintendo. Only 2018's Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and 2008's Super Smash Bros. Brawl bowed with higher physical unit sales. 

New Horizons is also the highest grossing title in the Animal Crossing franchise, exceeding the lifetime sales of all other entries in the series over its first month of launch. 

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare held the No. 2 spot in March, while new titles MLB: The Show 20 and Resident Evil 3 remake came in at No. 3 and No. 4 respectively. MLB: The Show's launch month sales far exceeded those of its 2019 predecessor.

Other new titles launched in March, such as Doom Eternal and Persona 5: Royal, landed at the No. 6 and No. 7 spot on the top sellers list, respectively.

Over Q1 2020, spending on game software has fallen 8 percent from 2018 to $1.4 billion overall. 

Game accessories — such as controllers, headsets and game cards — also saw an increase in spending year-over-year, up to $397 million. The number is a record high for the month of March, topping March 2008's accessory sales.