OPINION: The UK games market

For all the doom and gloom, the six months’ figures for the UK games industry weren’t all bad news.

The likes of EA, Sony and Take-Two had plenty of reasons to cheer. Traditional game sales are actually on the increase.

And gamers, your customers, have been spoilt by a great line-up of titles, from Heavy Rain to Super Mario Galaxy 2, BioShock 2 to Red Dead Redemption. In fact, there have been 15 different Chart-Track No.1s this year.

These figures also don’t take into account the revenue generated digitally. We can only guess how much money Activision made from those Modern Warfare 2 map packs. A lot, for sure.

And let us not forget that we as an industry generated over half a billion pounds over the last six months from retail software sales alone. How many other sectors can boast that in today’s climate?

But for all the spin, the term ‘double digit decline’ speaks for itself. And ask anyone in the trade why the market has dipped so much, and you’ll get a number of different answers: it was the snow, the heat, digital distribution, the ash cloud, economic uncertainty, the general election, even the World Cup.

The reality is it was probably all of these things and more that have hurt consumer confidence. But take a closer look at Chart-Track’s data and you’ll see the real reason behind the sales downturn – the decline of the casual market.

The fact is, with rising fuel prices and continued economic difficulties, families are reducing their entertainment spend.

And why should they splash out on an expensive console game when Dad’s perfectly happy with his Develop Award-winning iPhone game Angry Birds, and the kids are too busy with FarmVille or Mafia Wars to want to play anything else?

It is now up to Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony to persuade the casual and family audience to spend money at retail once again.

Can 3DS, Kinect and Move reinvigorate the market? There are doubts. PS3 is an expensive piece of kit. And can Kinect really appeal to families? Maybe, but price is absolutely key.

Either way, this Christmas promises to be big. The release line-up for September onwards is much, much stronger than it was last year.

It’s not just Call of Duty, FIFA and Assassin’s Creed. There’s GT5, Final Fantasy, Fallout, Halo, The Sims, GoldenEye and Need For Speed. To name but a few.
So, yes: so far, so difficult. But don’t write 2010 off just yet. Just keep calm and carry on.

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