With Chart-Track's Annual Report now published and available for sale to publishers, Kristan prepares his own annual Statto impression and wades through the facts and figures to offer an interesting picture of UK retail. In part one, we look at the state of the market and the fate of the current generation of console platforms. (Data from Chart-Track's annual report. Used with permission.)
The backdrop of 2005 was one of doom and gloom, with independent retailers in particular feeling the squeeze as all the major high street firms went to war with each other. After years of tolerating online retailers undercutting them by over £10 on a full price title, the high street was seeing their market share steadily eroded and decided to strike back with full force.
Suddenly, with all the mainstream types forced to price-match, UK retailers were making next to nothing on the games they were selling, and putting pressure on publishers to reduce their selling price - something that many under-pressure publishers were extremely reluctant to do.
EA's extended its all-encompassing licence deal with the football world's governing body FIFA.
It's been another great year for English sport, what with, er, us winning that cricket thing and that. And now we have another trophy to put in the rather sparse cabinet following England's win at the 2005 FIFA Interactive World Cup.
They say that the closer you get to realism, the more you notice the stuff that's missing.
So, by that token, FIFA 06: Road To FIFA World Cup must be one of the most realistic games ever made, because I have a notepad full of things I've classed as "missing".
Of course, what they really meant was that as you start to better emulate the smallest details - moving eyes, mouths, jawlines, flushing cheeks and so on - your brain does a much better job spotting the smaller blemishes, and weighs them more heavily against the overall image. In the case of FIFA 06 on Xbox 360, things like the way that everyone's been glazed in slime, the way John Terry's jaw appears to be trying to escape his face, and the way that David Beckham looks like some sort of comedy duck. Close in on someone's face in Pro Evolution Soccer and you're left in no doubt that it's unrealistic, but the makings of resemblance are easier for your brain to reconcile with than what we have here, which is the reanimated occupants of a mausoleum caught in the bask of a full moon. After a gunge-shower.
September and we're already reviewing FIFA? What's that all about? Some things are carved in granite, and FIFA's annual late October outing among the falling leaves and the bracing weather has been as predictable and comforting as a steaming cuppa in the morning.
But not anymore.
The reason? Competition. In this game it's all about being first out of the blocks. For the past four years, Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer series has chipped away at EA's gargantuan ownership of the genre for a couple of reasons. For one thing it's simply the better, deeper game, but Konami has profited greatly by stealing a march on Electronic Arts' license-rich effort by coming out a few weeks earlier. In fact, in the past few years, each version of PES has sold a couple of hundred thousand units before EA has had a chance to catch up, and last year's decision to go multi-format boosted sales even further.
Electronic Arts is teaming up with FIFA and Xbox once again to bring you the second FIFA Interactive World Cup.
Surely in celebration of Aston Villa coming close to signing a decent, young striker in Milan Baros [You're welcome - Liverpool-supporting Ed], Electronic Arts has finalised a release date for the latest in its much loved/maligned footie series, FIFA '06.
Is it that time already? Yes. Electronic Arts is just about set to bring on another FIFA game, looking again to net huge sales when it's released this autumn.