No question about the big UK entertainment industry success of 2008: sales of videogames and consoles topped £4bn for the first time last year, as the success of Nintendo’s Wii tempted a whole new audience into an area once reserved for the bedrooms of teenage boys and students. The Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association, an industry trade body, said today that videogame sales soared 23% to £1.9bn, as more than 80m copies of titles like Prince of Persia, World of Warcraft and Guitar Hero flew off the shelves. And it’s becoming fun for all the family...
The biggest winner from all this was Japanese games giant Nintendo, which shifted more than 20m games for its Wii console this year – nearly a quarter of all the games sold during the year, and double last year’s figure – plus another 19m for its handheld DS console. The hardcore gamer may sniff at offerings like Wii Fit and Wii Sports, or Brain Training on the DS, but it’s opening up brand new markets for Nintendo. And with Wii sales of nearly £500m last year (overtaking Microsoft’s Xbox 360), it’s clearly a lucrative formula.
‘Video gaming is increasingly bringing families together with the introduction of so many outstanding family-based console titles,’ says ELSPA boss Mike Rawlinson. ‘These have really opened up the market to those who may never have even considered playing a video game before.’ Last year’s boom means that the video game market has now doubled in the last five years – and it even means that the entertainment industry will end 2008 slightly up on the previous year, which would have seemed pretty unlikely six months ago as the downturn started to bite.
So can the gaming industry repeat the trick next year? History suggests that the entertainment sector will do well in a downturn – both because people want cheering up, and because they tend to stay at home more. Then again, although videogame manufacturers have so far been able to get away with charging £40 for their new titles (and unlike the film and music business, they have less of a problem with piracy), this might not seem such a good deal when cash is tight. And this is a fast-moving market – soon the ground-breaking Wii will seem old hat, and the likes of Nintendo will need to come up with a new gimmick.
Still, as today's figures show, it's not exactly the worse industry to be in at the moment...
In today's bulletin:
M&S cuts jobs and stores after sales slump
Domino's and Greggs line up higher profits
Videogames going to the next level
Power of prayer is not redundant
LAST CHANCE: MT's 2008 in 20 Questions