Yikes!

That’s about all you can think after seeing the latest video game sales numbers from research firm NPD Group. NPD reported earlier today that U.S. retail sales of game merchandise fell 31 percent in June compared with the same month a year earlier.

The industry has posted year-over-year sales declines for every month since April. That fall-off has negated what started off as a fairly strong year, with sizeable growth through March.

Thanks to the slump, consumer spending on games and game products is down 12 percent in the first half of this year.

Industry analysts predicted that sales would fall off. In the first half of last year, industry sales grew a whopping 36 percent. Posting growth on top of that increase was always going to be hard. And it was made more so by the fact that industry players have released few must-have titles in recent months.

Still, the latest figures have to be making industry executives nervous that the industry is being affected not just by tough comparisons with last year but by the poor economy. Overall sales in June, for instance, were up just 6 percent from June 2007, and sales of accessories and hardware were actually down over that two-year period.

To be sure, there were a few positive signs here and there. Nintendo clearly has a hit with its new DSi handheld. The company reported selling 424,000 of them in June. That number topped the combined sales of both Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3.

Despite that, the Xbox 360 actually had a good month, with unit sales up 10 percent from June 2008.

Meanwhile, Electronic Arts had a nice showing. It posted record launch-month sales for its Tiger Woods golf title and it had the top-two best selling titles on the Wii, one of the first times in memory that any company other than Nintendo could claim that.

Troy Wolverton Troy Wolverton (256 Posts)

Troy writes the Tech Files column as the Personal Technology Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. He also covers the digital media, mobile and video game industries and writes occasionally about Apple, chips, social networking and other aspects of technology. Previously, Troy covered Apple and the consumer electronics industry. Prior to joining the Mercury News, Troy reported on technology, business and financial issues for TheStreet.com and CNET News.com.