Fewer, Bigger and Better Videogames May Be Paying Off

Over the past two years, publishers have focused on making fewer, bigger — and, in theory — better game franchises.

One example is Electronic Arts, which has eliminated 42 game franchises over the past two years, to focus on 25 of its best titles. Now there’s at least one data point that says the industrywide practice is starting to pay off.

In May, there were 27 percent fewer new game introductions, but the new console, portable and PC titles that did launch generated 188 percent more unit sales than they did a year ago, and 31 percent more dollars, according to NPD’s monthly game report.

“So, while there were fewer new item introductions this May, they collectively generated more unit and dollar sales,” said Anita Frazier, NPD Group’s videogame industry analyst.

One thing that helped drive positive results in May was the huge success of Activision Blizzard’s Diablo III for the PC.

NPD’s monthly game report primarily tracks new sales of hardware, software and accessories that occur at retail — in other words, it does not take into account game sales that happen electronically. Frazier estimates that the physical retail channel now only represents 50 percent to 60 percent of the total consumer spend on games.

But Frazier estimates that in May consumers also spent $155 million on used games and rentals, and $420 million on digital sales, including subscriptions, mobile apps, social games and downloadable content.

In all, she estimates that consumers spent $1.17 billion on both physical and digital games in May.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

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