The Associated Press

NEW YORK — U.S. retail sales of video games fell 26 percent to $766.2 million in April from a year earlier, hurt by a lack of game launches.

Market researcher said Thursday hardware sales plunged 37 percent to $249.3 million in April compared with the same month last year. Software sales dropped 22 percent to $398.5 million.

Sales of the handheld Nintendo DS tumbled by more than half to 440,800 from more than 1 million last April. Even with the big drop, the DS was still the month’s best-selling system.

Sales of the Wii also declined, while both Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox 360 saw upticks from a year earlier.

"The portable side of the industry contributed more than its fair share to the industry decline," said NPD analyst Anita Frazier. She added that sales of portable systems – the DS and Sony’s PSP – accounted for 61 percent of the month’s total video game sales decline.

Consumers may also be putting off buying new portable game systems in anticipation of Nintendo’s launch of its 3D handheld gaming device, the 3DS. Apple’s iPhone and the iPad are also competing with portable gaming systems for consumers’ time and money.

April is generally the slowest month of the year for video game sales, Divnich said. That’s because the fiscal year ends in March for many game makers, who generally try to fit in new game launches before the year is up, leaving few titles for April.

There was just one big game launch last month, Ubisoft’s "Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction" for the Xbox 360. And it was the best-selling April title, with 486,100 units sold.

Even so, April sales were disappointing. Divnich said the 22 percent software sales decline was well below industry expectations of a 5 percent drop.

The analyst said, however, that new technologies, such as 3D gaming and new motion-control technologies from Sony and Microsoft slated to launch later this year, are "looking to re-energize the industry."

Get the latest news alerts: at Twitter.