Source: NPD Funworld

While the media and politicians focused on Mature-rated video games in 2003, new data reveals that the percentage of M-rated games sold last year actually declined while the number of Teen-rated games sold rose, according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the U.S. association representing computer and video game software publishers. The data shows that combined sales for computer and video games exceeded $7 billion for the first time ever, and that a record number of console video games sold more than 500,000 and one million units.

"While total sales were slightly below the most bullish forecasts, the record number of blockbuster releases shows that the popularity of video games is strong and growing," said Douglas Lowenstein, president of the ESA. "Moreover, the fact that 44 of the 49 games that sold more than half a million units were rated E or T reflects the fact that this industry is producing a broad array of highly entertaining content appropriate for people of all ages. That's a major reason why entertainment software continues to outpace the annual growth posted by the movie and music industries."

Lowenstein speculated that the decline in sales of Mature-rated games likely reflects the absence of many major blockbuster titles in the genre in 2003, a fact that could change in 2004 depending on upcoming product releases.

Consistent with past years' numbers, announced by the ESA and annually compiled by the NPD Group, the majority of games that sold were rated "E" for "Everyone" (54%), followed by "Teen" (T) rated games (30.5%) and by "Mature" (M) rated games (11.9%). In 2002 E-rated games accounted for 55.7% of games sold, T-rated games 27.6% and M-rated games made up 13.2% of games sold. Of the top 20 best-selling console games, 70% were rated E or T, while 90% of the top 20 computer games were rated either E or T.

Overall, 2003 U.S. sales of console games totaled $5.8 billion (186.4 million units) while computer games accounted for $1.2 billion (52.8 million units) in sales. Total game software sales in 2002 were $6.9 billion, with console games bringing in $5.5 billion in sales and computer games accounting for $1.4 billion. (Note: The numbers released by the ESA today do not include sales of game hardware or accessories.) A record nine console games sold more than one million units, and all were rated E or T. Thirty-nine console games sold more than 500,000 units and 83 exceeded the 250,000 unit barrier. Comparable numbers for 2002 were six, 33, and 73, respectively.

"The future strength and promise of interactive entertainment comes across loud and clear when we note that ours was the only entertainment industry to continue to grow in 2003," added Lowenstein. According to numbers compiled by the NPD Group, total game software sales in 2003 grew while both the movie and music industries reported losses compared with 2002 sales according to estimates made by Exhibitor Relations and Nielsen SoundScan, respectively.

Console game players most often purchased action (27.1%), sports (17.6 %), and racing titles (15.7%), role-playing games (8.7%), fighting games (6.9%), family entertainment (4.7%), and shooter games (4.6%).

Computer gamers, however, most often purchased strategy games (27.1%), children's entertainment games (14.5%) and shooter games (13.5%), followed by family entertainment titles (9.5%), role-playing games (8.7%), sports titles (5.8%), racing (4.4%), adventure (3.9%), and simulation games (3.5%).