Games selling a lot - Shock

The world is going game crazy, says Screen Digest

On a grey Tuesday in winter, it's always nice to be able to pluck out some random piece of research to make us feel better about having a hobby that involves sitting down and staring at a screen for hours on end. We're part of a revolution, honest.

Busy stat-beaver Screen Digest reckons that on a like-for-like basis, the console market is growing at a mightily impressive 30 per cent, comparing the current crop of machines with the last generation at the equivalent point in their life cycles.

Here in the UK, spending on "leisure" software (i.e. not just games) in 2002 was double the size of the video rental market and 40 per cent more than cinema box office, according to the report. Just to ram home the point even further, games hardware sales (presumably not including PCs) rose by 44 per cent during 2002, with 3.3 million units sold. Blimey.

Meanwhile, not only is the UK the largest market in Europe, but it's the third largest in the entire known universe. Total sales for 2002 in the territory reached £1,081 million (EUR 1,612m), while 215 million games have sold since 1995 - or nine title per household, Screen Digest estimates. Or 212 pirate copies per household, probably.

On a worldwide basis, the games and edutainment/reference software will grow to $18.5bn this year, up from $16.9bn in 2002, says the report, with growth apparently tripling since 1995.

And for hardware stat junkies, PlayStation 2 sold an estimated 6.3 million console in Western Europe in 2002, with more than 40m PlayStation 2 machines sold worldwide by the end of last year, giving Sony 74 per cent share of the current 128-bit console market, ahead of Nintendo's 14 per cent and Microsoft's 12 per cent.

This year, Screen Digest predicts that 32 million new PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube consoles will be sold during 2003 across the world, up from a little over 30m in 2002. Software wise, 548 million units are expected to be sold worldwide, up from 508m last year.

Roger Bennett, director general of ELSPA, said: "These figures clearly demonstrate the commercial strength of an industry rich in creativity and entertainment value. More games are being purchased by more people all over the world and it is heartening to acknowledge the contribution made by UK-based development houses to that success."

Ben Keen, research director of Screen Digest, added: "The current technology cycle of the games market is playing out at an accelerated rate compared to previous market phases. In addition, more games are being sold for every console purchased. This means that hit titles will sell in ever greater numbers."

But what they failed to mention is that while game sales are, indeed, increasing, the sales are increasingly being distributed among fewer huge hits, like Vice City, while the number of expensive flop games released is rising dramatically. For all the good news of the headline figures, all is not well in the wider world of publisher land.

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Kristan Reed

Kristan Reed

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Kristan is a former editor of Eurogamer, dad, Stone Roses bore and Norwich City supporter who sometimes mutters optimistically about Team Silent getting back together.

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