It probably is following the last year’s long-awaited introduction of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles — and growing interest in downloaded games — researchers at The NPD Group conclude in a new report on 2013 Games Market Dynamics: U.S. The firm says that total spending on video game content increased 1% to $15.39B. Consumers paid $7.22B for downloaded games, and $1.83B for used and rentals. That more than compensated for the 11% drop, to $6.34B, in sales of new physical video games for consoles and PCs. Hardware sales were up 5% — NPD doesn’t provide a dollar number — resulting in a 2% increase in spending for hardware and software combined. Consumer outlays for hardware and software fell in 2012 and 2011, NPD said. But with Microsoft and Sony offering next-gen devices to follow Nintendo’s Wii U in 2012, it’s “a positive indicator for future market growth as we enter the first full year with all three new consoles on the market,” NPD analyst Liam Callahan says. He’s impressed by research showing that 36% of people 13 and over played downloaded games. Teens and young adults are the biggest market, of course, but “there is no particular point after age 25 where incidence declines significantly.” (Really? Not even among people over 70?)
It’s been years since we’ve seen new models of the major gaming consoles battle head-to-head in the marketplace. And Sony‘s PlayStation 4, in its first weekend, has set a high bar in initial sales for Microsoft to try to beat later this week when it releases the Xbox One. Sony’s stock is +1.5% thus far today — when most stocks are down — following the company’s announcement yesterday that it sold 1M PS4s in the first 24 hours after Friday when it was released in the U.S. and Canada. ”Sales remain very strong in North America, and we expect continued enthusiasm as we launch the PlayStation 4 in Europe and Latin America on November 29,” Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House added. Even so, Benchmark Co analyst Mike Hickey notes that the roll out was “marred” by reports of a problem: “A pulsing blue light in the centre of the console, nicknamed the Blue Light of Death in tribute to the Xbox 360′s infamous ‘Red Ring of Death’, has reportedly heralded the doom on hundreds of bricked PS4s,” he says in a report. A company spokesman in Tokyo told Bloomberg that these are “isolated incidents and represent a very small percentage of total units shipped to consumers to date.” Still, Sony posted several suggestions for consumers to fix the problem “while we investigate.”
In what could be good news for the likes of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, China is moving to repeal a 13-year ban on the sale of video game consoles within the country. The news came in a set of rules issued by the State Council today with regard to the new free-trade zone in Shanghai. Foreign companies will be able to sell their products throughout China if the companies operate sales and production within the zone, The Wall Street Journal said. Each device, however, will have to be approved by the Culture Ministry. The relaxation of the ban comes a few days after reports that Microsoft was partnering with Chinese internet TV company BesTV to develop family games and related services. The Journal points out that consoles have long been available in China through “unofficial channels”, but that players prefer gaming on computers and phones. Consoles were initially banned in 2000 over concern that gaming would harm young people. No timeline has been set for consoles to reenter the market.
David Bloom is a Deadline contributor.
PlayStation Group CEO and president Andrew House told a press event at the big GamesCon conference in Germany today that the company’s next-generation game console, the PS4, will be released November 15 in North America and two weeks later in Europe. The release date was the last significant unknown about the PS4, which had been substantially unveiled in June, just before the E3 game convention in Los Angeles. The new console will be priced at $399 in the United States, 399 euros in Europe and 349 pounds in the UK. The company already has had more than 1 million pre-orders of the new machine, House said. It also unveiled a program with game companies Ubisoft, Warner Bros, EA and Activision that will allow buyers of the next installments of several top franchises who buy a version for the current PlayStation 3 to upgrade to a digital copy of the PS4 version of the game for “a significantly discounted price,” House said. “We see this as a way to reward PS3 gamers for their loyalty,” House said.