Last year was a pretty terrible year if you're a purveyor of digital worlds. According to MCV, the overall UK games market contracted by 17.4 per cent to £1.598 billion, down from £1.943 billion in 2011. Who's to blame, then? The Mayans? The US Election? The continued absence of next generation hardware? Entertainment Retailers Association director general Kim Bayley has a few ideas.
Before you tear your clothes and burn anything in effigy, be mindful that the figures don't paint an entirely faithful picture, as they don't take into account newer distribution channels. "The combination of a myriad of exciting new devices and compelling new digital retailing services is clearly exciting consumers," Bayley commented in a statement mailed to MCV, discussing entertainment sales in general. "What is most striking is that these figures do not even include the impact of streaming services like Spotify, Deezer, We7 and Rdio, for whom full market value data is not yet available."
The UK digital games market has grown 7.7 per cent, according to the ERA, but this has yet to offset a slump in sales of boxed games - 26 per cent last year. "Despite digital's seemingly inexorable growth, the CD, the DVD and the physical games disc show incredible resilience," Bayley observed. "It is nearly nine years since iTunes launched in the UK yet over 60 per cent of music sales are still accounted for by physical formats. It is clearly way too soon to write off the CD and in video, digital barely gets a look in. Physical formats still account for three quarters of the entertainment market."
Moving forward, Bayley feels suppliers need to distribute their releases more evenly around the year. "The dearth of attractive releases during summer 2012 was clearly a significant factor. Suppliers need to do more to rebalance their release schedules and improve the quality of their releases.
"No retailer can afford to pay overheads on a store for 52 weeks of the year if all the key releases are going to be concentrated in the last quarter," she went on. "And entrepreneurs will think twice about investing in new digital services if releases fail to excite the public."
It'll be interesting to see how everybody gets along this spring, in light of that. With next gen console announcements expected in the summer, a staggering quantity of high profile releases are shipping in the first half of the year - commercial suicide, according to established wisdom. First up, Anarchy Reigns and Devil May Cry. Let's hope we're all toasting their success this time in 2014...