Sales, in fact, are looking stronger than they have in months, thanks to robust Black Friday sales, a new hit game and interest in Microsoft's Xbox and its Kinect motion-sensor device. While sales of consoles and games combined have slumped over the past year, U.S. sales surged 8% to $2.99 billion last month -- the best November showing on record, according to research firm NPD Group.
Game sales alone, however, fell 5% year-over-year, but there still was one standout: Activision's (ATVI) highly anticipated Call of Duty: Black Ops. The latest game to join the Call of Duty franchise has sold 8.4 million units so far to become the seventh best-selling game of all time.
With back-to-back "biggest entertainment launches," Activision is no stranger to best-seller lists. In fact, earlier this year, when the NPD Group, a leading market research firm, released its list of top-10 best-selling console games in U.S. history, the Call of Duty franchise took three different spots, and Activision's other moneymaker, Guitar Hero, took one.
Besides Black Ops, here's a look at some of the best-selling titles in video-game history according to NPD:
This forgettable collection of mini-games most likely made its way to the top by including a Wii controller in every game box back when any Wii accessory was hard to find.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
This game earned Activision its first claim of the "biggest entertainment launch" ever. It also nearly trumped the "Hot Coffee" controversy with its level "No Russian," which put players as first-person shooters behind a gun as part of a gang mowing down innocent travelers in a Russian airport. Even for video games, this went beyond the ordinary violence.
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
Don't let anyone tell you that the Guitar Hero or Rockband video games have destroyed Rock 'n Roll. They're just jealous that you've had more fun pushing plastic buttons on a fake guitar then they've had after realizing their band, "Urethra Screwdriver," is going nowhere.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
With this version the developer, Rockstar, struck an ambitious balance between the silly and the earnest. Silly was giving players the chance to gorge themselves on pizza to the point of vomiting and obesity, then letting them run through the streets to work off the pounds. Earnest was those streets in a fictionalized and often times uncomfortably stereotyped version of the 1990s South Central L.A. that saw televised police brutality and riots. But Rockstar, a U.K.-based developer, has never shied from satirizing any part of American culture, no matter how seriously Americans may take it. It's just one reason any Rockstar game is worth playing.
Mario Kart Wii
The latest version from Nintendo's Mario Kart series is still one of the best party games. In it, players take control of one of the classic characters from the Mario franchise and race small go-karts around a track while lobbing such family-friendly weapons as a turtle shell or banana peel.
Since this is the only Mario game on the list, it should be stated here that Nintendo's Italian plumber is now nearly synonymous with video games and will literally become so if the English language ever devolves into pictogram when the word "video game" will be depicted by Mario's silhouette.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
This was the first of the series to take players out of WW II and into a modern war in a fictionalized Arabic country. Unlike its successor's "No Russian" level, which seemed designed to be outrageous for the sake of headlines, the most shocking levels in this version were designed for the player. One of the more memorable was "Death from Above," which put players inside an AC-130 gunship looking down on a village through a night-vision display and tasked with killing the anonymous white men running on the ground. The effect was so much like the real thing that the quietest level in the game also became one of its most haunting.
Yet another collection of mini-games from Nintendo built around a Wii accessory, this time their exercise focused on a balance board. There's a ski-jump game, a balance-the-marbles-on-a-table game and a slalom game, among others. None of them are exciting until you take it all to your folks' house over the holidays, hook it up and realize you just spent two hours playing video games with your parents, who now can't stop laughing about the fun they just had.
New Super Mario Bros.- Nintendo – May 2006
Nintendo's update of the classic that started it all. All the old jumping on mushroom platforms, stomping Goomba heads, shooting fireballs, are there, with new weapons, like snowballs and mini-mushrooms. There are two different versions, one for the handheld DS and one for the Wii. If you have to choose go for the Wii version which has you holding the remote sideways which looks nearly the same as the first NES controller, and allows you to play with up to four people at once.
Call of Duty: World at War
Activision's final game on the list came out between its two Modern Warfare titles and took players back to WW II. Its current juggernaut, Black Ops, is this game's sequel.
Madden NFL 07
Since it launched on consoles in 1990, Electronic Arts' Madden has become a staple of American video games. It has even influenced the real National Football League, as Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokely told Wired magazine. When asked if one of his plays was from the game, Stokley answered, "it definitely is."