The May sales figures for video games are in – and they don’t make for pretty reading for those who work in the world of making and selling video games. May was officially the worst month for gaming sales since 2013. The news was particularly bad for vendors who rely on selling games through shops and physical outlets, with GameStop beginning to feel the squeeze as players opt to download their entertainment rather than buying it in person.
Downloads and mobile gaming fared better than physical game sales, although even that shows a downward trend. On top of that, revenue figures for mobile gaming are always a little misleading, as they contain data taken from mobile and online casino sales. Online UK Slots appear to be immune to the general downward trend, as more and more players opt to place their bets from the comfort of their own homes instead of heading out to land-based casinos. There’s another wrinkle to the tale, too – online casino websites aren’t about to be replaced by a new form of technology. Games consoles are.
The last time the industry saw sales figures this low was exactly six years ago, under the same conditions we see right now – major manufacturers are holding off on releasing big-name new games until new consoles are available to play them on. Both Sony and Microsoft have announced new consoles are on their way for 2020, and so the clock has started ticking down on the current generation. That presents an even bigger incentive to hold off than it has done in the past. Back in 2013, the average shelf life of a brand new game was only around a year anyway, by which point either a sequel or a new and more interesting game could come along. Now, with DLC content more important to the longevity of a game than ever before, a new release can last for three or four years. Games like Grand Theft Auto 5 are still entertaining their audiences with new content years after their first release. With new consoles on the way, it doesn’t make good business sense to release a new game in the knowledge that many potential players will be abandoning their current hardware for a new model within the next twelve to eighteen months.
Because gaming companies are reluctant to release new games, there are fewer headline titles than ever hitting the physical and virtual shelves. Only two of the best selling games in May – ‘Total War: Three Kingdoms’ and ‘Rage 2,’ factored into the top ten best-selling games for the month. All the other entries on the list have been available for some time. It may be the case that only big franchises like EA Sports’ FIFA football series, and the next ‘Call of Duty’ game, make a big splash in terms of sales between now and the release of the next-gen consoles.
If sales of games in general are down, sales of new games in particular are awful. There hasn’t been a worse month for the sale of brand new games since 1998, representing a 21 year low in the enthusiasm of buyers. Gamers are just as aware as software companies that new consoles are on the horizon, and they’re seemingly keeping their money in their pockets until they know for sure how long they have left with their current model. Sales of video gaming hardware have also taken a three percent dive. Based on all of the above, it’s a surprise that the figure isn’t higher, although it may be the case that discounted consoles are attracting bargain-seeking buyers.
This isn’t the final end for the current generation of consoles and games, though. Based on the schedule for the first part of next year, it would appear that developers are planning sign off from the current era of gaming with a flourish. The long-awaited official ‘Avengers’ video game will launch for the PS4 and Xbox one somewhere around March 2020 – although based on the initial reception for the game’s trailer, it looks like there may be a lot of work to do before Marvel has a product which their fans are happy to spend money on. An updated version of the all-time classic ‘Final Fantasy VI’ is slated to come out at around the same time, which should have a strong appeal to those tempted by the nostalgia of a fresh coat of paint being applied to a 1990s PS1 era classic.
When that’s all out of the way, attention will turn to the new era. Microsoft has their foot in the door ahead of Sony when it comes to generating hype, as they’ve already confirmed and partially previewed their flagship ‘Halo Infinite’ game, which will be available at the point of launch for the XBox. Neither Sony nor Microsoft have yet confirmed the official names of their new consoles, although Xbox 2 and PlayStation 5 seem like reasonable – if predictable – guesses. Unlike last time the two gaming giants had new consoles to release, this time they’ll be facing serious competition from new rivals. Apple has announced its arrival into the gaming market with the Apple Arcade, and where Apple goes, Google is never far behind. Their Google Stadia promises to offer players the ability to play any game they like as easily as logging into YouTube. Both companies are offering subscription model services to their new kit, which is a new idea.
Last time big new companies entered the video gaming market, it was Sony and Microsoft pushing Sega and Nintendo aside. Now, Apple and Google seem intent on doing the same to them. Are we about to see a sea change at the top of the video gaming world, or will the old guard manage to hold on at the top of the mountain? There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to sit tight and wait to see what 2020 brings. Whatever happens, it’s a certainty that sales figures will have improved by then. This slump isn’t the beginning of the end of video gaming – just the end of one era, and the beginning of the next.