A new report claims that rumors of the demise of retail have been greatly exaggerated.
The widely-held belief that gamers are rushing en masse to embrace a digital future is only partially true, according to a new report from analyst firm Wedbush Morgan. Casual and social gamers are definitely making the move and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, but it seems that "hardcore" gamers actually have a preference for retail. Because of that, the report says the "packaged goods business" should be viewed by the industry as two distinct sectors: hardcore games, selling primarily on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and casual, which focus on the Wii and DS.
"Our thesis has been borne out by the 2011 figures (according to the NPD Group), with Xbox 360 software sales up 12 percent, PS3 software sales up four percent, DS software sales down 21 percent and Wii software sales down 31 percent," the report says. It goes on to note that the slide of Wii software sales is "largely correlated to growth in free-to-play social games," while the DS is being victimized by mobile and tablet games.
That's not to say that things aren't changing among the hardcore demographic. Core gamers have become more selective about what they buy, resulting in a growth of "top-tier" games even as overall sales have slowed. Software sales are expected to continue to decline through the summer but then bounce back for the holiday season and even to a position of overall growth for 2012, driven by a strengthened release schedule and demand for 3DS and PS Vita games and the forthcoming Wii U, which will slow - but not stop - the slide of casual and mobile sales at retail.