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December 2018 NPD Video Game Industry Sales Results

For the majority of 2018 the PlayStation 4 had been resting mightily at the top of the sales charts, according to the NPD – a firm that tracks video games sold in the U.S. December changed all that with the massive success of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (a Switch exclusive) and the huge hardware bump in sales Nintendo saw as a result. This helped propel the Nintendo Switch into first place in both dollars and units sold for the entirety of 2018!

2018 overall was a fantastic year for video games. Total revenue came in at $43.4 billion in the U.S. – the highest ever recorded! This marks a 17% increase over 2017. Hardware made up $7.5 billion and software (including in-game purchases, subscriptions, etc.) made up $35.8 billion. According to Venture Beat, the U.S. film industry also brought in $43.4 billion in 2018, showing that video games have finally reached parity with that entertainment sector.

For December of 2018 total U.S. video game spending came in at $3.415 billion (up 2% over last year). Of that, hardware sales made up $1.168 billion (down 8%), software made up $1.237 billion (down 3%), and accessories and game cards brought in $1.01 billion (up 29%).

The Nintendo Switch had a really stellar month in hardware and software sales. It had the best December on record for any console this generation. In fact you have to go all the way back to December of 2009 when the Wii was the king of the hill to find a December that raked in more money than this one. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate had the best launch month of any console exclusive EVER. Well, at least as long as the NPD has been tracking data since the ’90s. That puts it ahead of other big-hitters like Spider-Man on PS4 and Halo: Reach on the Xbox 360. The Switch also claimed 7 of the top 20 spots on December’s software charts. The Switch Pro Controller was also the best selling accessory for the month (in dollar sales).

Speaking of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – it truly is a beast! According to Venture Beat and Mat Piscatella:

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is already a blockbuster hit. It is the top-selling game of December and the No. 5 best-selling game for all of 2018. What’s stunning about this is that Nintendo’s games do not include digital sales on this chart. Call of Duty, Red Dead, and Spider-Man all do — at least on consoles.

“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the best-selling game of December 2018 and the fifth best-selling game of 2018, despite digital sales not currently being tracked by The NPD Group,” Piscatella said. “Packaged software launch month dollar sales of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate exceeded those of the previous best in franchise history, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, by over 70 percent.”

But Smash isn’t just a success by franchise standards. It is the fastest-selling console exclusive game ever tracked by the NPD.

“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate set a new launch-month dollar sales record for a platform exclusive in Video Game history,” said Piscatella. “[It exceeded] the launch month dollar sales of 2010’s Halo: Reach.”


Below is the top 20 chart of best selling software in the U.S. for December of 2018. Keep in mind that some Nintendo titles could have charted even higher, but Nintendo doesn’t report digital sales to the NPD, whereas most other companies do.


NPD’s 20 best-selling games of DECEMBER 2018

These charts are sorted by dollar sales — not number of units sold. 

  1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  2. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4**
  3. Red Dead Redemption II
  4.  Battlefield V**
  5. NBA 2K19
  6. Mario Kart 8*
  7. Madden NFL 19**
  8. Super Mario Party*
  9. Pokemon: Lets Go Pikachu*
  10. Marvel’s Spider-Man
  11. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
  12. Pokemon: Lets Go Eevee*
  13. Super Mario Odyssey*
  14. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild*
  15. Just Cause 4
  16. FIFA 19
  17. Grand Theft Auto V
  18. Minecraft
  19. Spyro Reignited Trilogy**
  20. Fallout 76*

*Digital Sales Not Included
**Digital PC Sales Not Included


So, now that we have December’s sales results, how did the top 20 shakeout for the entirety of 2018? Red Dead Redemption 2 barely beats Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 as best-selling game of the year. Below are the top 20 games for the entire year:

NPD’s 20 best-selling games of 2018

*Does not include digital sales
**Does not include PC digital sales

  1. Red Dead Redemption 2
  2. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
  3. NBA 2K19
  4. Madden NFL 19
  5. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  6. Marvel’s Spider-Man
  7. Far Cry 5
  8. God of War 2018
  9. Monster Hunter: World
  10. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
  11. Grand Theft Auto V
  12. Mario Kart 8*
  13. FIFA 19**
  14. Battlefield V**
  15. Super Mario Odyssey*
  16. Call of Duty: WWII**
  17. Dragon Ball: FighterZ
  18. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild*
  19. Super Mario Party*
  20. Pokemon: Lets Go Pikachu*


NPD’s 10 best-selling Nintendo Switch games of 2018

  1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
  2. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
  3. Super Mario Odyssey
  4. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  5. Super Mario Party
  6. Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu
  7. Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee
  8. Splatoon 2
  9. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
  10. Kirby Star Allies


NPD’s 10 best-selling 3DS games of 2018

  1. Pokémon: Ultra Sun
  2. Pokémon: Ultra Moon
  3. Mario Kart 7
  4. Super Smash Bros.
  5. Detective Pikachu
  6. Super Mario 3D Land
  7. Minecraft
  8. Luigi’s Mansion
  9. Mario Party: The Top 100
  10. Super Mario Maker


NPD’s 10 best-selling PS4 games of 2018

  1. Red Dead Redemption 2
  2. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
  3. Spider-Man
  4. God of War
  5. NBA 2K19
  6. Madden NFL 19
  7. Far Cry 5
  8. Monster Hunter World
  9. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
  10. FIFA 19


NPD’s 10 best-selling Xbox One games of 2018

  1. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
  2. Red Dead Redemption 2
  3. Madden NFL 19
  4. NBA 2K19
  5. Far Cry 5
  6. PUB G
  7. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
  8. Monster Hunter World
  9. Forza Horizon 4
  10. Battlefield V


[Sources: Venture Beat & Mat Piscatella]


Craig Majaski

Craig has been covering the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published across a wide spectrum of media sites. He's currently the Editor-In-Chief of Nintendo Times and contributes to Gaming Age.

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