We're still spending record amounts on gaming, a year into the pandemic

The PS5 and Switch played key roles in the sales surge.

Aaron Souppouris/Engadget

Video game sales are still smashing records roughly a year after the COVID-19 pandemic led many people to stay indoors. The NPD Group has determined that video game spending in the US surged 18 percent in March 2021 compared to a year earlier, hitting a new record of $5.6 billion. Hardware sales in particular jumped 47 percent to $680 million, breaking a March record that hasn't been touched since 2008 — yes, the heyday of the Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360.

It won't surprise you to hear that new consoles helped fuel the hardware surge, but it wasn't all up to the new models. The PlayStation 5 is the fastest-selling console in US history both in dollars and units, NPD said. However, it wasn't the strongest seller in March — that honor went to the four-year-old Nintendo Switch, which outperformed the PS5 in sheer volume. NPD didn't mention Xbox Series X or S performance.

Sony's PS5 DualSense controller led accessory sales in terms of dollars.

The games might offer insight as to why the Switch kept out front despite technically more powerful competition. While it won't surprise you to hear that Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War topped game sales for March and the quarter, the second most popular game was the Switch-only Monster Hunter Rise. Moreover, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still sixth on the list despite launching in April 2017. The Switch has exclusives that keep bringing people in, and it wouldn't be surprising if the combination of a kid-friendly game library and a lower price made it a go-to for parents eager to keep their children entertained.

The PS5 and new Xboxes, meanwhile, are hampered by the combination of short supply and higher prices. They currently appeal most to enthusiasts and early adopters. That should change as shortages ease and prices drop, but you might not see it dethrone the Switch any time soon.