Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Spend versus save

Spend or save? Gordon’s splurge package versus Dave’s deep pockets. Fiscal versus frugal? While the politicians battle it out, it appears the public has decided on its own strategy. And the consumer says: let’s have both. That is, spend your hard-earned on computer games now; stay in and play them to save. 2008 was the year of the video game, with sales hitting an all-time high of almost 83 million units across all platforms. That’s 1.3 console games each. No wonder the pubs are empty.

Total sales of software and hardware topped £4bn, which is more than we spent on music and video—evidence that computer games are not only seen as the recessionary purchase of choice, but also that they are finally beginning to shed their geeky image. Much of the hard work has been undertaken by Nintendo, whose strategy of bringing gaming to the kind of punters who previously considered it to be a somewhat nerdy pastime, has reaped rewards. Nintendo Wii hardware and software holds the top three slots in the all-platform chart on Amazon, while Nintendo Wii games made up almost a quarter of all UK software sales in 2008. The company’s handheld console, the DS, has followed the same risky track, and to good effect: you’re more likely to see a DS handheld out and about than any other portable.

But the biggest surprise is Sony’s performance. Sales of software for the PlayStation 3 rose by 145 per cent, a phenomenal rise on last year, especially considering that the majority of the console’s titles are unsuited to the casual gamer. By this I mean impenetrable apocalyptic first-person shooting games. Maybe the nerds do still reign.

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