Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Electronic Game Market Declines

NPD has the figures in for 2009, and reports an 8% drop in sales for electronic games in the year. On the plus side, though, December showed a gain (and was in fact the best month ever in electronic game sales). It should be noted that NPD's figures include all hardware as well as software, and of course the reduction in console prices had some effect on sales (though not nearly as much as the manufacturers had hoped). The big news was really the collapse of the "music games" genre, which some analysts believe was responsible for about 75% of the sales decline. Perhaps the marketplace was oversaturated with music games; I tend to believe that was the case, and as a contributing factor the price of the instrument controllers (especially when dollars got scarcer for consumers).

I also think the essential shallowness of the music games meant that there would be a burnout sooner or later. Yes, the songs are different, but basically the actions are pretty simple. Now Project Natal comes along, and you can use the sophisticated sensors involved in that to actually have the software judge someone's performance with their body language as well as their facility in hitting the notes, it might revive the genre.

This is also a good object lesson in the limitations of marketing. The Beatles release had a lot of money spent on marketing, including a widespread TV ad blitz, yet turned in disappointing numbers (especially given the massively difficult job of getting all the proper licenses). At seventh and last, it was yet another music game, and with music that is increasingly less relevant to the core audience for the genres (due in large part, I think, to the Beatles' refusal to allow their music to be sold as downloads, thus locking themselves out from a new generation of fans). You can do a really fine job of putting lipstick on a pig, and giving it a wonderful wardrobe and hair styling, but it's still a pig. Marketing is ultimately, and in the long run, limited by the inherent quality of the product and its appeal to the customers may be limited by factors beyond the control of marketing. Caveat vendor.

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