You might think the last month was pretty good for gaming: November saw the launch of Xbox exclusive Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 - two of the biggest gaming titles of the year – along with heavy weights like Nintendo’s innovative Wii U console. However, according to research firm NPD even this blockbuster line-up wasn’t enough to halt the slow but steady decline in US video game sales.
However, Microsoft accurately claims that Halo 4 sales are a success (in fact a Halo 5 release is already pencilled in), Activision can confirm that its Black Ops 2 is selling like hot cakes, and the Nintendo console with its revolutionary tablet-like game controller isn’t doing too badly either, with 40 000 Wii U units sold in the UK in its first weekend.
As it turns out, these titles were not to blame. "Despite an overall retail video game decline of 11%, November had the smallest year-over-year decrease we have seen for dollar and unit sales so far this year," NPD said according to the BBC.
So is the multi-billion-dollar video games industry in decline? First of all, it’s important to remember that these figures are for the US only – and while they may be indicative of the rest of the world, they’re not the final word on global trends.
Secondly and most importantly, the NPD figures don’t take digital sales into account. Think of how many people game on tablets like the iPad 4 or phones like the Nexus 4. Then throw in sales of the digital versions of disc games from online services like the PlayStation 3’s PSN, Xbox 360’s Live service, and Nintendo’s digital shops. Even big blockbuster games like Assassin's Creed 3 van be bought from the comfort of your couch and delivered in the time it takes to download them.
This seems a far more likely reason for the decline in traditional retail videogame sales, especially with comprehensive digital distribution platforms like Valve’s Steam, which works on both Mac and PC - and which offers many games that can be run on the new Windows 8-powered tablets that you can find in our Roundup of the Best Windows 8 Laptops Tablets Convertibles and PCs.
Do you think the world’s biggest entertainment industry is losing steam, or is digital downloads the reason why physical discs just aren’t spinning out of the shops anymore? Let us know in the comments below.