Callisto Protocol Outsold in Debut Month in US by Mario Kart After Reportedly Missing Sales Targets

The NPD Group has released its analysis of US game sales for the month of December and for the full year 2022, and while the full-year results aren't shocking, December specifically has some interesting tidbits in the game sales charts that shed a bit of light on how well two supposedly "underperforming" games have done lately: Callisto Protocol, and Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope.

First, Callisto Protocol. It debuted in December at No.17 on the US sales charts (ranked by dollar sales), reaching No. 10 on the PlayStation charts and not cracking the top 10 on Xbox at all. That's not bad in and of itself, to be clear: Callisto is a brand new IP by a brand new studio, after all. It was never going to beat out giants like Elden Ring or Call of Duty.

But it's a little bit surprising it didn't do better than some of its competition. For instance, it was beaten out by the nearly nine-year-old-and-only-on-one-major-platform Mario Kart 8 (which admittedly had some DLC recently that likely bolstered sales), the even-older Minecraft, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – another console exclusive that had no meaningful updates in December.

And it's notable too that reports have indicated Callisto Protocol didn't meet the company's sales expectations after being billed as a "quadruple-A" game and having an absolutely massive budget. Given that context, a multi-platform game with essentially an entire month of sales included in the report debuting at No.17 isn't great news.

That's Callisto Protocol, but what's going on with Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope? Just last week, Ubisoft stated in a press release that Sparks of Hope "underperformed", citing it as one of multiple motivators behind a reworked business strategy that involves restructuring, canceled games, and delays. Sparks of Hope released in October of this year, debuting at No.6 on the NPD during its launch month and dropping to No.13 in November and No.14 in December.

Though we don't have the actual numerical sales numbers on hand, that seems solid enough, especially for a Switch exclusive. So what does "underperforming" really mean? We can't know what Ubisoft's expectations for it were, but it's interesting to compare its ranking at least with its predecessor, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. Kingdom Battle came out at the tail end of August 2017, but wasn't included in the August charts due to not landing during that month's reporting period. But it debuted at No.5 in its September 2017 launch period, arguably with much less tough competition (Destiny 2 was the best-selling game that month, and that year's Call of Duty hadn't come out yet, for instance).

All Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope Characters

Then, it mysteriously vanishes from even the top 20 for the rest of the year. It didn't crack the rankings in the US in October, November, or December that year. We have to take this with a grain of salt of course – rankings don't equate to any specific dollar sales numbers and all of this can be explained away by particularly tough competition in a given month, games costing different amounts, or any number of other weird quirks.

But it's still fascinating to see Sparks of Hope doing relatively well compared to its competition even months after launch (it also beat out Callisto Protocol in December, and was the third best-selling Switch title last month!), while its developer and publisher insists it's still not enough.

Overall, US spending on games reached $7.6 billion in December, up 2% year-over-year. Hardware was up 16% with PS5 as the best-selling console of the month in dollar sales and Nintendo Switch as the best-selling in unit sales. Meanwhile, content and accessories spending dipped very very slightly. Content specifically was impacted by mobile, subscription, and physical software spending declines even as digital spending rose.

For the full year 2022, total video game spending was down 5% to $56.6 billion, with increases in hardware and subscription spending offset by declines elsewhere. NPD Group analyst Mat Piscatella sites "continued supply constraints of console hardware, a relatively light slate of new premium releases, and macroeconomic conditions," as factors impacting the year's sales.

The PS5 was the best-selling console of the year in terms of dollar sales, and the Switch was the best-selling in unit sales. The best-selling game of the year was (unsurprisingly) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, followed by Elden Ring.

Here are the best-selling games of December 2022 in terms of dollar sales:

  1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II
  2. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet
  3. God of War Ragnarok
  4. Madden NFL 23
  5. FIFA 23
  6. Sonic Frontiers
  7. Elden Ring
  8. Need for Speed: Unbound
  9. Mario Kart 8
  10. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII: Reunion
  11. NBA 2K23
  12. Just Dance 2023 Edition
  13. Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope
  14. Minecraft
  15. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
  16. Nintendo Switch Sports
  17. The Callisto Protocol
  18. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
  19. Splatoon 3
  20. Gotham Knights

And here are the best-selling games of the entire year:

  1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II
  2. Elden Ring
  3. Madden NFL 23
  4. God of War: Ragnarok
  5. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  6. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet
  7. FIFA 23
  8. Pokemon Legends: Arceus
  9. Horizon II: Forbidden West
  10. MLB: The Show 22
  11. Mario Kart 8
  12. Call of Duty: Vanguard
  13. Gran Turismo 7
  14. Kirby and the Forgotten Land
  15. NBA 2K23
  16. Sonic Frontiers
  17. Gotham Knights
  18. Minecraft
  19. Nintendo Switch Sports
  20. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Note that for both rankings, Nintendo and Take-Two do not share digital sales data, and thus digital sales data for their published games are not included.

Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.

this article was amended to clarify Nintendo digital sales in the NPD reports.

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