OPINION: Is the UK games market fighting fit or fighting fire?

Rationally, a decline in UK industry Christmas marketing spend makes sense at a time when there are fewer games coming out, and the ones remaining are getting most of the attention.

Compare the year-on-year release schedules, however, and Q4 isn’t particularly quiet year-on-year.

Ubi, EA and Activision have their favourites and franchises. The platform holders have a line-up each with plenty to prove. Swap Batman and Skyrim last year for Hitman and Dishonoured this year and you’ve even got a similar number of alternative blockbusters on the way.

So, even if it is just emotionally, it really does jar that the level of marketing spend – which was once a good barometer for industry energy – has come in lower than ever.

There are smaller budgets, and where there is any left it’s also being spent more wisely – spent in ‘more effective’ or ‘more targeted’ ways (read: cheaper) then before. Elsewhere, some companies have sat out the marketing merry-go-round completely.

But 99m is just a number. Games advertising spend is 40 per cent down, and the trade’s marketers and PR teams have to work 40 per cent harder. Early signs are we are doing just that.


When new releases fail to chart, most of us turn a blind eye. Who are we to revel in a product’s failure?

But the lack of momentum for Kinect games is worrisome.

Is Fable: The Journey the canary in the mine or the start of a new adventure for Microsoft’s peripheral? Few will commit an answer, in itself quite damning – two years in, you expect it to have a core of advocates.

You can’t say that the market isn’t receptive to gimmicks or new ways to touch games – Skylanders is entering its second year, and Wonderbook and Wii U are the hot new releases from Sony and Nintendo.

And you can’t say that the industry hasn’t embraced market-stretching ambition – over the page we have the head of LEGO and a Disney movie chief extolling to MCV the cultural and commercial worth of video games.

Kinect is a great opportunity for retailers but, ironically, has become a bit invisible. Xbox 360 is the market-leading console – I can’t be the only one out there who wants to see its ambitious add-ons match that?

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