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In brief: For the first time since Rock Band managed it in 2008, a game that wasn't from the Call of Duty franchise or Rockstar was the year's biggest game in the US. You might think Baldur's Gate 3 or Alan Wake 2 topped the table, but 2023's most successful title in terms of dollar sales was Hogwarts Legacy.
Industry-tracking group Circana's latest figures show that US spending on games recovered last year following a 5% decline in 2022. It should come as no surprise that Call of Duty was 2023's best-selling franchise (excluding add-on content) for the 15th year running. But while Modern Warfare 3 placed second on the top games list and Modern Warfare 2 was seventh, Hogwarts Legacy was number one.
Call of Duty games have topped this chart since 2009, with the only exceptions being Grand Theft Auto V in 2013 and Red Dead Redemption 2 in 2018. It was reported last month that Hogwarts Legacy was on track to break the cycle, and now it's been confirmed.
Looking at the industry as a whole, US spending on games increased 1% last year to $57.2 billion, though December saw total spending up 4% YoY to $7.9 billion.
Software, add-ons and subscriptions were up 1% to $48 billion in 2023, while accessory sales jumped 4% to $2.6 billion thanks to a 7% rise in gamepad sales led by the year's biggest earner in this category, the PS5 DualSense Edge. Hardware sales, meanwhile, were down a fraction of a percent to $6.59 billion.
The PlayStation 5 took the crown as the best-selling platform of the year in terms of both dollar sales and units. The Nintendo Switch was second, and the Xbox Series X/S third. Sony's dollar sales grew across the year as the Xbox Series X/S and Switch experienced declines.
Despite the Xbox Series X's unit sales reaching a lifetime high in the US during December following its $150 price cut during the holiday season, the PlayStation 5 was still the month's best-selling console with record dollar sales. Microsoft couldn't even capture second place, which was taken by the Switch.
The Xbox lagging behind its rivals comes as no surprise. We heard in November that the PS5 was outperforming the Series X and S in most of Europe, with sales of Sony's machine growing as the Xbox consoles' sales declined 52%. What's interesting is that Microsoft keeps talking about becoming a multi-platform publisher and dropping Xbox-exclusive games, which would likely lessen its machines' appeal in the eyes of many potential buyers.