Report: PlayStation 5 breaks unit and dollar sales records for a new console launch month (NPD)

The games market grew by a massive 35% in November, highlighting consumer anticipation for next-gen hardware. Meanwhile, the Nintendo Switch continued its unprecedented hot streak. NPD's Mat Piscatella weighs in.

Analyst provider NPD Group has released a report examining games industry sales numbers for November, and the data points to a record launch for Sony’s PlayStation 5. According to the report, the console achieved the highest unit and dollar sales for a launch month in US history, records previously held by the PlayStation 4’s launch month of November of 2013. 

For Mat Piscatella, executive director of games at NPD, while these numbers are certainly impressive, they’re not indicators of the PlayStation 5’s long-term performance.

“Launch month sales of a new console have no correlation to long-term performance, so I don't think the strong launch performance says much more than Sony was confident enough to make the units available for sale that would reach the record,” Piscatella told GameDaily. “I am certainly optimistic for the long-term prospects for both new gen consoles, but I don't take anything more away from the launch month sales than that's the number of units that were produced and distributed.” 

All told, hardware spending reached $1.4 billion in November, a 58% increase over the same month last year. Hardware spend has reached $4 billion for all of 2020, which is 34% higher than in 2019.

Meanwhile, the Nintendo Switch has put together a rather impressive two years. NPD notes that the hybrid console has been the best-selling platform in terms of unit sales every month for the last 24 months, an achievement realized with the help of some shrewd market positioning on Nintendo’s part.

“Nintendo Switch is one of the best-performing consoles in US history,” Piscatella explained. “Nintendo has established Switch as a device that is complementary and additive to the market, and one that is more cooperative than in direct competition with PlayStation and Xbox. This can be seen in the very high cross-ownership rates we see between owners of Switch and those who also own a PS4 and/or Xbox One.” 

On the software front, it was Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War that took the top spot for November, marking the 13th consecutive year a Call of Duty game has ranked as the best-selling title of its release month. Year-to-date, Call of Duty:Black Ops Cold War and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare are the top two best-selling games of 2020, respectively.

It’s not surprising to see Call of Duty at the top of the monthly charts, but the last year has seen the emergence of a greater ecosystem surrounding the perennial shooter franchise. Between Modern Warfare, Warzone,and Call of Duty: Mobile, the series has grown by leaps and bounds. 

“I think what is particularly special is the franchise expansion that has taken place with both Call of Duty: Warzone and Call of Duty: Mobile,” Piscatella said. “These individual components have increased the overall strength, reach, and appeal of the franchise, and I think the results reflect that. I also think that the current Call of Duty franchise model is the best in the market, and one I expect other franchises to attempt to replicate.”

Elsewhere, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla was the second best-selling game of November. NPD’s report notes that Valhalla achieved thes highest launch month sales for an Assassin’s Creed title since 2012’s Assassin’s Creed III. For Piscatella, this performance speaks to Ubisoft’s

“Considering the ups and downs of the franchise over the years, and the intense effort that was undertaken to return the franchise to this point, it is a remarkable achievement,” Piscatella said. “It is certainly a title to keep an eye on over the coming months.”

Piscatella also pointed out the continued strong performance of Nintendo’s first-party software lineup. In November, the company had eight of the top 20 best-selling games, and year-to-date Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the third best-selling title.

“Nintendo's first-party promotional efforts in November really helped its evergreen titles break through the next gen console noise and continue to sell incredibly well,” he said. “Eight of the top 20 titles of the month were published by Nintendo, and [it’s extra impressive] given that our charts can only report Nintendo physical sales against the physical & digital sales from other publishers.”

Between hardware, software, and accessories, the entire games market reached $7 billion in November, a record for the month. It’s a 35% increase over November of 2019, which Piscatella explained may be insurpassible for some time.

“Just about everything is selling well. I don't know if we'll see 35% growth in a November month again anytime soon, so I'm just going to enjoy the ride for a while,” he said.

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Editor-in-Chief

Sam, the Editor-in-Chief of GameDaily.biz, is a former freelance game reporter. He's been seen at IGN, PCGamesN, PCGamer, Unwinnable, and many more. When not writing about games, he is most likely taking care of his two dogs or pretending to know a lot about artisan coffee. Get in touch with Sam by emailing him at  sdesatoff@rektglobal.com or follow him on Twitter.