Toy sales expected to fall 1.8% in 2013 while games tumble 28.3% in 2012. Why?

Yes, we all know that retail is a tough environment at the moment. But video games are amongst the worst performers of 2012.

Sister site Toy News reports that IBISWorld data predicts that the UK toy market will likely decline by just 1.8 per cent throughout 2013. The 2012 games market, by contrast, is currently down 28.3 per cent year-on-year, with many expecting even steeper decline in 2013. Official numbers suggest the rate of decline has almost doubled over the last 12 months.

Of course, we cannot ignore the fact that the two markets are of very different sizes. Toys are expected to be worth 1.23bn in 2012. The games market was officially worth 2.52bn in 2011, with a 28 per cent decline this year likely to bring it down to around 1.8bn.

There are similarities, though. Toy retailers will expect to make around 40 per cent of their annual revenue in Q4, falling roughly in line with games.

But here’s a big difference – the top four retailers in the toy sector (including Toys R Us, The Entertainer and The Early Learning Centre) will likely account for a 55 per cent share of the 2012-2013 toy market.

The UK video games market currently has just one specialist – GAME. Indies aside, there’s no other retailer in the UK that sells games alone.

There’s an elephant in the room, of course, and that’s digital. As long as official charts continue to omit digital sales from games market reports the industry will continue to dig its own grave, turning off swathes of investors and giving retail the chills.

Add to that the dire performance of the PlayStation Vita and the disappointing start for Wii U in the UK and it’s very easy for us to paint a very dire picture indeed.

But as revealed by MCV last year, the true 2011 UK video games market value was 30 per cent higher than the official numbers, thanks to the boom in digital. And who knows – we might be in the middle of the biggest year ever in video gaming and none of us even know.

But until the likes of Valve, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo routinely reveal their digital sales numbers we’ll never know. At what point do the rest of us decide we’ve had enough and start taking some affirmative action?

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