Overall, this past Holiday season wasn’t terrible for the gaming industry, but it wasn’t that great either according to GameStop.
So first the hard numbers: Hardware sales took a tumble in the last quarter of 2012 for US gaming giant GameStop, falling from $626 million USD to $617 million USD. Software sales also fell from $1.655m to $1.608m (USD) for the same quarter and, perhaps most telling, used game sales nosedived from $818m to $753m.
Used games are the life’s blood of GameStop and to see those numbers is maybe indicative that either troubling economic times or the digital future (or maybe both) have caught up with the video game enthusiast.
Even with a year over year increase in profits (GameStop is reporting that profit is up from just a little over $300m USD to just a little over $400m) GameStop is forecasting a more doom with a weakened core market and a quarter 1, 2013 decline in profit of somewhere between 6 and 8.5%. Interestingly enough, and bucking the trend for the company, digital sales were up a monster 60.3%.
As the market becomes increasingly fractured thanks to more and more of those digital sales and more consoles than you can shake a Wii-mote at too, it should be (to put it mildly) interesting to see where retail goes from here. Personally, I think a death or sharp decline of the retail (or second hand for that matter) video game market couldn’t be anything but bad for the end user.
Why? It’s pretty simple- lack of competition means lack of competitive pricing. Yes, I know there’s great stuff to be had on services like PS+ with its free games and sales on the PSN, Xbox Live, and Steam (who are getting to be famous for it), but how many games are up on console online services that are way over priced for what they are?
How many titles are priced at MSRP digitally, years after their release and subsequent markdowns at retail? Plenty. Do a quick search on Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network and you’ll see what I mean. And maybe give it a thought the next time you’re raging against GameStop or Best Buy- or any other brick and mortar for that matter. An all digital future worries me, to put it mildly and it seems to be something that’s rapidly approaching.
Buckle up game-fans, it just might be a bumpy ride.