Archive for July, 2008

Retail PC Game Sales – Still On Life Support

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

A while back, I posted here about the sharp decline in US PC retail game sales (using data that had mostly been helpfully collected and posted by Rob Merritt).

That was two years ago, so the topic deserved a revisit.

The good news is, sales aren’t falling as fast. The bad news is, they’re still falling, down about 4% (10% inflation adjusted) since that last post. Overall, as the graph below shows, in inflation adjusted terms, these sales are down about 61% from their peak in 1999.

US retail PC game sales 1994-2007
(See Graph Data and Sources below)

What’s a little more depressing is that the sales that are being made are almost entirely from old franchises. See these top ten lists for 2007 and 2006. Virtually every game on both lists is based on an old franchise. (I’m counting World of Warcraft as based on the old Warcraft franchise. For that matter, WoW itself is pretty old now. And there is a title “Star Wars: Empire at War that appears to be a non-sequel, but of course, it’s based on Star Wars.) Sims/SimCity titles make up 5 of the 10 entries on both lists.

In short, the US retail PC game market is much smaller than it once was, and not really open to breakthrough new (original) titles.

Even though I’m a developer, I’m probably characteristic of many gamers as well. I have only bought one or two new retail PC games in the last few years. I prefer downloadable casual titles or console titles.

I don’t read the print magazines about PC gaming anymore. Well, we’re down to only one such magazine anyways (PC Gamer is the only one left, I think).

Perhaps I’ll write a longer post in the future about *why* (in my opinion) this decline occurred. Perhaps I’ll also gather data on some more promising areas (casual games, console games, MMORPGs, etc.)

Graph Data and Sources
Data:
Year/Raw Sales/Inflation Adjusted Sales
1994    $966  $1,352
1995  $1,400  $1,905
1996  $1,700  $2,247
1997  $1,800  $2,325
1998  $1,800  $2,290
1999  $1,900  $2,365
2000  $1,600  $1,927
2001  $1,750  $2,049
2002  $1,400  $1,614
2003  $1,200  $1,352
2004  $1,080  $1,185
2005    $953  $1,012
2006    $970    $998
2007    $911    $911

Sources:
2007 data
2006 data
My old post on this topic, with older sources.
My old post was, in turn, largely based on data and sources collected by Rob Merritt, at this link.
CPI data, used for inflation adjustments

Links and such

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

Catching up on other blogs a bit. Some of these links are a bit old, but still interesting (to me, anyways):

Greg Costikyan has a great post on his experiences presenting at a venture capital conference. I haven’t attended a VC conference, but parts of his post accurately echo my experiences at various game-oriented conferences.

He also writes a bit about another VC’s comments on the casual game industry.

Besides this blog, I run (through New Crayon Games) the site CasualGameBlogs.com, which aggregates content (feeds) from a bunch of casual game type blogs. I did some updating of that site recently, and added Bret on Social Games. I suppose it’s not a perfect fit, because, as I understand things, “Social Games” are a bit different from casual games, with the former primarily run through social networking sites like Facebook. I’m way behind the times on these social sites (I don’t even have a MySpace page – the SHAME!!!), but probably need to bone up a bit on this stuff. Bret’s site may be helpful for this.

AOL appears to be making efforts to improve its casual games site (Games.com). The community manager, Laurent Courtines, had asked me to add the blog for this site to CasualGameBlogs.com. I declined – blog.games.com is a bit too commercialized for what I want for CGB, but it’s still an interesting read, with a loto of top X lists of various kinds for Games.com.

Finally, while this site has been around for a while (originally under a slightly different name), for those who haven’t found it, CasualCharts.com is a great way to see which games are on top now, and what has fared well historically.

Games, Games, Games

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

In theory, I should probably create a separate post for each game that I want to comment on. Feh… Here’s some game comments from the last year or two.

Casual Games:
Build-a-Lot – Excellent game. Clever idea, well implemented.
Build-a-Lot 2 – Disappointing sequel. Didn’t add enough new stuff. Still, I bought it and played it a while.
Peggle – Go play this game now, if you haven’t already. Brilliant.
Monopoly by Parker Brothers – The newest version of Monopoly, aimed at the casual market. I’m a sucker for Monopoly, and I did buy this game, but I’m pretty disappointed. As beautiful as the graphics are, the AI is awful, there appears to be no system for internet matchmaking (or did I miss it somehow?), and the graphics are nice, but intrusive (too many animations that can’t easily be skipped, slowing the game).
Ticket To Ride – Still my favorite. Barely fits in the casual genre, but a lot of fun. Apparently there’s a new version out for X-Box Live Arcade, but I’ve been playing the PC version.

Traditional PC Games:
This is a bit embarrassing, but I’ve barely played any traditional (boxed retail) PC games in the last year or two. I bought Flight Simulator X, but only toyed with it a bit. I played a fair amount of SimCity 4, but I haven’t bought the newest SimCity title yet.

Console Games:
My 7 year old son has taken the title of biggest console gamer in the family away from me. Lately, he’s been playing the Lego series of games (the two Lego Star Wars games and the more recent Lego Indiana Jones). These games are brilliant.

We bought a Wii, and it’s about what I expected. A good party game system, with some interesting game mechanics. Most of the games we’ve played are a bit shallow, but we’ve still been having fun with this system. The biggest disappointment is that the remote control thingie doesn’t seem to have a good sense where on the screen you’re pointing to. I guess this is because there’s no calibration step in setting up the device (you know, where the system would tell you to aim at each corner of the screen and press a button), so the Wii doesn’t know if you’re playing on a 25″ TV or a 55″ TV. Perhaps, given the technology the Wii uses, such calibration wouldn’t even be possible. In any case, it makes some games harder and less intuitive than they should be, because where you point the control doesn’t correspond super-closely with where the system thinks you’re pointing (for our TV anyways).

Our family doesn’t have an XBox 360 or PS3 yet, so no comments there.

No Comment

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

I admit I’m a bit of a sucker for online conversations. For a while, I posted my own thoughts with some regularity here. I still post regularly on a couple of forums, and I occasionally will comment on other people’s blogs.

That said, some time ago I disabled comments on this blog. Why? The blog was getting flooded with spam. Little if any of it showed up on the site, but I was getting hammered with e-mail notifications of new (95%+ spam) comments coming in, and didn’t want to waste time sorting the legitimate comments from the “Free ringtones!” offers (and many that were far less tame).

Despite a lot of filtering and deleting since I started this blog, I’m showing 8113 comments for this blog awaiting moderation. Since I think I shut off all ways that real live human beings would enter comments, I think these are all spam that the bots are trying to submit via some method I don’t have figured out. That’s 8113 comments from 12/3/2007 through 7/1/2008. Yowza.

Yeah, I know there are programs that can help with the filtering, and I used to use one, but it didn’t work very well, and I’m not motivated enough to find a better solution. So, no comments for the time being. (You can still send me e-mails via the spam-resistant address shown on the ‘About’ page).

A (Brief?) Return…

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

If you’ve been reading amateur blogs for a while, you may be familiar with a certain cycle.

  • Blogger creates blog.
  • A huge flurry of initial posts ensues. Blogger describes such mundane topics as taking his family to McDonald’s.
  • Blogger realizes that perhaps the rest of the world isn’t so interested in his musings on McDonald’s.
  • Posting frequency drops off.
  • A last post or two.
  • Blog goes into hiatus.
  • Anyways, for the time being, I’m adding the following:

  • After some time away, blogger returns with a few posts.
  • It’s probably a doomed effort, but for the near future, I’ll try to post a bit more.